06 February 2010

Lighter Chicken Pot Pie

I don't own ramekins. I know I should, but I don't. A few years ago, a friend of mine asked to borrow the 6 gorgeous ramekins I had stocked away in the cabinet of kitchen-crap-gathering-dust, and then she moved away rather abruptly and I wasn't able to get them back before a trail of Palouse dust gathered behind her U-Haul.


When the middle of winter blahs take over, I start craving chicken pot pie, and oddly enough, I start thinking about those ramekins. Since my two-person household can rarely finish off a massive chicken pot pie casserole, I've always wanted to make something like this. Since there's no crying over spilled milk (get it? the linked blog is aglassofmilk? I crack myself up), I went ahead and made a whole casserole.

The lucky part is that it was eaten within minutes....the whole thing. The recipe is yet another I adapted from Eating Well, and for convenience purposes (seriously, I had a stack of papers whining at me from my office desk, conveniently located within view of my kitchen--GRADE ME! GRADE ME!), I topped the casserole with store-bought buttermilk biscuits. My heart always flutters when I pop one of those tubes open--it's like Prince Albert in a can. It may be healthier and tastier to follow the homemade biscuit recipe in the original recipe, but as the Pioneer Woman might say about cutting corners on a busy night, it's really the only right thing to do.

Chicken Potpie Casserole
(original recipe at Eating Well)

3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
1 cup peeled baby carrots
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved*
2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream**
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots; cook, stirring, until golden brown and tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until browned and their liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Return the onions and carrots to the pan. Add 2 cups broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Mix cornstarch with the remaining 1/2 cup broth; add to the pan and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Stir in chicken (or turkey), peas, sour cream, salt and pepper. Transfer the filling to a 2-quart baking dish.
3. Top with biscuits and bake the potpie until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*I used baby bella mushrooms because it's what I had on hand
**I substituted fat free sour cream and it didn't make much difference in consistency

The Naughty Blogger's Southwestern Salad

I've been a little absent from the blogosphere as of late, but in lieu of the usual "teaching is taking over my faculties" excuse, I'll just admit it: I've been naughty. If you all were my animals, you'd be standing by the front door with a leash in your mouth and soft eyes pleading for attention.

I haven't been naughty in the kitchen, however, and in my attempt to eat more healthfully during the winter months, I've been darn successful. When I eat fresh and healthy, I have more energy to grade, prepare for lecture, read, and every now and then, BLOG!! Here's hoping that energy keeps on coming.

I have a lot to catch up on this blog, so I'll start with one of my favorite light dinners, adapted from Eating Well. The original recipe called for beef, but I've used everything from leftover shredded chicken and ground chicken, to my favorite, ground turkey. I've listed the specific brand/type of ingredient where necessary, but it's pretty versatile. I had some feta to use up, and my husband prefers cheddar to top, but the saltiness of the feta is a lot like queso fresco (and in this neck of the woods, feta is a lot cheaper).

Southwestern Ground Turkey Salad
(adapted from Eating Well's Tex-Mex Taco Salad)

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. Muir Glen Black Bean and Corn Salsa
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tsp. canola oil
1 yellow onion (preferably sweet), diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1-14.5 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb. ground turkey
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Large handful chopped, organic cilantro
Small head organic romaine lettuce, shredded
Garden of Eatin Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Crumbled feta to top (optional)


1. Mix salsa and sour cream together in a small bowl, and set aside. Heat oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic; cook until fragrant and then add ground turkey. Once cooked through, add tomatoes, spices and kidney beans. Cook until tomatoes are tender. Remove from heat.

2. Add some of the salsa-sour cream mixture and the chopped cilantro to turkey mixture, up to 1/2 cup. Toss salad greens with the remaining salsa-sour cream mixture and arrange among 2-3 plates. Top with meat mixture and arrange tortilla chips around the plates. Sprinkle with feta and enjoy!

03 January 2010

Veal Piccata = HEAVEN

First things first: 2nd wedding anniversary celebration!! Woot woot!

Now that I have that out of the way, wait--let me put away the balloons and streamers, and get down from this chair.

Okay. Veal Piccata. It's heaven.

I found some lovely veal cuts and immediately decided on this one. I even crossed off an already planned meal and a handful of ingredients I was going to buy about 30 seconds after I spotted them. I usually make this dish with chicken since it's cheaper, but I decided a little celebration deserved a little splurging. This isn't the rich, sinful version since I prefer a lighter sauce, but it's still pretty darn indulgent.

Veal Piccata
(adapted from Eating Well)

4 veal cutlets or around 1 lb. (see note below)
2 tbsp. + 1/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, quartered
2 tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
1/3 cup white wine
2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp. capers
2 tsp. butter
6 oz. whole wheat pasta

1. In a bowl, whisk 2 tbsp. flour into chicken broth and set aside. Season veal cutlets with salt and pepper and coat with flour, shaking off excess. Cook cutlets in a large skillet coated with olive oil, about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove cutlets from the pan and keep warm.
2. Add mushrooms to skillet and cook until browned, about 4-5 minutes, and transfer mushrooms to another plate. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta until al dente while mushrooms cook.
3. Add white wine and garlic to skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in broth and flour and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of salt to taste, and simmer until sauce thickens.
4. Stir in the mushrooms, butter, parsley and capers, and then toss cooked pasta with about half of sauce. Serve chicken on pasta and spoon remaining sauce over chicken.

01 January 2010

Forget Take-Out: Healthy Lemon Chicken at home for a healthy New Year

Entering a new year, I rarely ever make resolutions because they just don't seem plausible. I am, however, making one resolution: save money and eat out less. This is an easy resolution to keep since I don't eat out often and I budget my meals carefully every Sunday. But...I have an occasional addiction to kick.

I think I've mentioned my weakness for Chinese takeout before a number of times on this blog, but it deserves reiterating. I LOVE CHINESE TAKEOUT. Tortilla chips are my kryptonite and takeout is my secret love (not to be confused with my crushes on baby bok choy and mini muffins).

In my quest to reinvent a healthier version of takeout, I once again looked to my trusty friends at Eating Well. If you haven't checked out their recipes, you should. They're awesome.

Lemon Chicken Stir-Fry
(reprinted from Eating Well)

1 lemon
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
10 ounces mushrooms, halved or quartered
1 cup diagonally sliced carrots , (1/4 inch thick)
2 cups snow peas , (6 ounces), stems and strings removed
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces, white and green parts divided
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1. Grate 1 teaspoon lemon zest and set aside. Juice the lemon and whisk 3 tablespoons of the juice with broth, soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate with tongs. Add mushrooms and carrots to the pan and cook until the carrots are just tender, about 5 minutes. Add snow peas, scallion whites, garlic and the reserved lemon zest. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Whisk the broth mixture and add to the pan; cook, stirring, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add scallion greens and the chicken and any accumulated juices; cook, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

30 December 2009

Comfort Food for a Restful Break

Ahhhhhhhhh. Allow me to catch you up. After I submitted grades, I went to bed. I slept in without waking up at 2, 3 or 4 AM in a cold sweat, without even waking up when my cat meowed in my ear all morning. I logged into my email and didn't see 50 pleas or beggings for forgiveness, I drove to my office and didn't encounter a single student. It looked like a ghost town, and my blood pressure never rose once. Is it? Could it be? BREAK??!!

Yes, oh yes, it is break. I watched a line of cars the length of a football field head out of town from my little valley, and with their vacancy came the loud proclamation from the depths of my soul:


It isn't that I dislike the presence of students. I just relish the quiet. Pullman is a tiny town, and without the student population the whole town slows down. No rush, no bustle, just silent calm.

To commemorate my final winter break in Pullman, I decided on comfort food. Comfort food is stick-to-your-ribs delicious, but it doesn't have to stick to your waistline. Pork chops are lean enough that a simple pan sauce can be downright satisfying, and even though mashed potatoes have been given a bad reputation in recent years, without adding a pound of butter, the potato is one of the most nutritious vegetables around (they possess the highest amount of protein that any vegetable has to offer). Rounding out the meal with a big ol' pile of steamed broccoli and a salad, my version of "comfort food" was every bit as comforting as a steak and loaded baked potato dinner. Take that, end of semester!

Pork Chops with Sage Apple Sauce
(Adapted from Eating Well's Pork Chops with Apples & Thyme recipe)

3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons canola oil
4 4-ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed of fat
1 small onion, sliced
1 Fuji apple, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup apple cider, or apple juice
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tsp. crushed sage

1. Mix 2 tablespoons broth and cornstarch in a small bowl.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add chops and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
3. Reduce heat to medium-high and add onion to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until it starts to soften and brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add apple and cook, stirring often, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining broth, cider (or juice), mustard, sage and the cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring, until thickened and glossy, about 1 minute. Return the chops to the pan and heat through. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes.

20 December 2009

Lighter Chicken a la King

When I was a kid, I loved sleeping over at other people's houses. There was something so exciting about sleeping in another bed and playing video games until the wee hours. However, the one thing I was always leery about was eating someone else's cooking. I was so used to my mom's cooking that sitting down at a different dinner table made me incredibly nervous.

Despite my apprehensive eating tendencies, one night at a friend's house I discovered what I can only describe as both the most disgusting and the tastiest meal ever: Chicken a la King IN A CAN. Yes, a can. Creamy chicken, tender mushrooms, salty and tangy pimentos: I had found my kryptonite.

Years later, I still have a taste for this comfort food now and again, but I tend to not eat meals from a can these days (I'm looking at you, ravioli and spaghetti o's). This lightened version was the answer to my craving, and I have to say it far exceeded my taste memory of its canned counterpart. Served over flaky biscuits or whole wheat egg noodles, I'm in heaven.

Chicken a la King
(Reprinted from Eating Well)

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
10 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
1 large green bell pepper, diced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry sherry, (see Note)
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup low-fat milk
1 4-ounce jar sliced pimientos, rinsed
1/2 cup sliced scallions


1. Toss chicken and flour in a medium bowl until coated. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reserving the remaining flour, add the chicken to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are softened and starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in sherry; bring to a boil and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, 3 minutes.
3. Whisk broth and milk into the reserved flour until smooth. Stir the mixture into the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in pimientos and the chicken and return to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in scallions and serve immediately.

Note: Sherry is a type of fortified wine originally from southern Spain. Don't use the “cooking sherry” sold in many supermarkets—it can be surprisingly high in sodium. Instead, purchase dry sherry that's sold with other fortified wines in your wine or liquor store.

16 December 2009

Chicken Cacciatore, or the last slow cooker recipe you'll have to endure for a spell

I'm beginning to think this blog should be renamed Dr. Slow Cooker. It would be much more fitting considering I'm not a medical doctor and I'm only doing a PhD in English, but frankly, I don't give in easily. Ask my husband.

Ian isn't a mushroom fan. He picks around them usually, but I decided that every now and then a gal has to recreate her favorite dishes to keep happy. Luckily, Ian was receptive and ate up his plate in just a few scarfs. I'm a lucky, happy almost doctor of philosophy. Spring graduation here I come! Er, except I'm not walking.

Chicken Cacciatore
(adapted from All You, October 2005)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 (14 oz.) Spanish onion, sliced into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 (8 oz.) package baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1 (4 lb.) broiler chicken, quartered
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound uncooked whole wheat egg noodles
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

2. Add onion, bell pepper and mushroom. Put chicken on top; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in crushed tomatoes; cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Chicken should be very tender.

3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook whole wheat egg noodles according to package directions until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

4. Transfer chicken to 4 plates. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard. Stir parsley into sauce. Spoon some sauce over chicken. Serve remaining sauce with pasta and cheese.

12 December 2009

Lentil Chili and the End of a Very Busy Semester

Ian graduated today, so we spent most of the morning and a good portion of the afternoon in an uncomfortable coliseum listening to speeches and recitations of names and chants and songs and...my butt still feels numb.

The one thing I didn't anticipate was that I would see so many previous students of mine graduating at the same time. I might preface this with the warning that I'm the type of person who cries at Discover Card commercials, and I'm pretty sure Rita Wilson was mocking my waterworks in that scene in Sleepless in Seattle. Needless to say, seeing students who were doe-eyed freshman ready to set the academic world on fire with their words (please, no Freedom Fighters references here) matriculating and moving on to greener pastures was entirely too much for this sappy teacher.

So what better way to celebrate than to make lentil chili? Yes, I'm the queen of the non sequitor. I may be done tearing up, but here comes the grading and advising. Sigh.

Lentil Chili
(adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook)

1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, choped
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
2 1/2 c. dried brown lentils, rinsed
8 c. vegetable broth
3 tbl. olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, except olive oil and salt. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Add olive oil and salt in the last half hour.

2. Serve with cheddar cheese and green onion toppings.

11 December 2009

In which I exhaust my slow cooker: Chicken Tagine

Yes, I'm addicted to my slow cooker. Yes, I probably need an intervention at this point. But really, why would you want me to quit easy cookin' at a time like this?

*Announcement alert*

Ian is graduating tomorrow morning, 12 December 2009 from Washington State University. He began his degree in 2000, the same year I began my undergraduate degree. He has taken a few classes at a time while working, and all of his hard work and perseverance is finally paying off. I couldn't be prouder of my love, my best friend, my everything. I know you're reading this, Ian. You rock.

Now that I'm done being cheesy, back to the food. I wanted to make this recipe the second I saw it in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook (all the excitement around here has also meant a lack of creativity--sorry folks), but I didn't want to make the massive serving size outlined in the recipe, so I've adapted it to fit a two-person dinner without cutting out the flavor.

I also forgot the very last step, which is to stir the peanut butter into the cooker. I've made this recipe once before on the stove in its entirety, so I know what I'm missing, but it was still a fantastic way to end a rather hectic final week of classes. Can I just blame my gaffe on the excitement around these here parts as well? And exactly how far can I stretch this excuse? Not very far, you say?

Fine. Here's your recipe.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine
(adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
1 can whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp. peanut butter


1. Place the first 8 ingredients in slow cooker, and arrange chicken pieces on top. Cook on low for 6 hours.
2. Stir in the peanut butter and serve over couscous.

Note: I cook my couscous in chicken broth with a soup seasoning (separate post one of these fine days) and a tiny pat of butter. Toasted pine nuts and a handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley complete the base for this wonderful tagine.

10 December 2009

Easy Breezy Chicken Posole

I've been making a lot of soups and stews lately, mostly due to the cold and partly due to the fact that one pot is easier on crazy work days than four or five different pots. Feel free to use whatever meat you have on have that's cooked and ready to use up. I've used turkey and pork tenderloin for this recipe as well.

Chicken Posole
(reprinted and adapted from Real Simple)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
salt and black pepper
1 32-ounce container low-sodium chicken broth (or sub homemade stock like I did)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 dried ancho chili, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 15-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
Lime wedges

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Add the broth, tomatoes, and chili and bring to a boil. Stir in the chicken and hominy and simmer until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with the lime.

See how easy that was? Now go cuddle under some blankets and forget about the frigid weather outside. Bring a furry friend: