Sunday, December 11, 2011

Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Artichokes

This is a delicious as a side dish or light lunch.  Traditional couscous is something I am not all that crazy about.  I enjoy it in a tabbouleh, but other then that, no thanks.  Israeli couscous is NOTHING like the other kind.  It is perfect little round pearls of pasta.  It is tender, has a lovely texture- not at all grainy, much unlike how I tend to think of with regular couscous.  It has a great mouth-feel, slightly creamy, but not at all mushy. The lemon and artichokes in this recipe really brighten the dish adding just the right amount of acid to really make it pop.  

The first day I made this recipe I served it as a warm side dish alongside grilled chicken breasts.  It was satisfying and everyone enjoyed it.  Especially the baby!  He was a huge fan; it was too funny watching him gobble it up.  The next day I enjoyed this cold, right out of the fridge and I loved it even more!  After having an opportunity for the couscous to soak up all the lemon juice and herbs, the flavors were really enhanced.  This would make a great Take-Along recipe for any party being as it stands up to any temperature.  

Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Artichokes 
4 servings

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Israeli (Pearl) Couscous
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1 large tomato, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup fresh basil and oregano, chopped
1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon corse salt
Black pepper, to taste

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and stir until it turns a deep golden brown and smells toasted.

Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until all the stock has been absorbed, 10 to 14 minutes. Pour into a large bowl and cool.

Meanwhile drain artichokes.  Divide the can in half.  One half of the can, slice the quartered artichokes in half. Chop the remaining artichokes.  Set aside.

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add the onions.  Sauté until they begin to soften and turn translucent.  Remove from heat.

Stir the remaining olive oil into the couscous. Add the oregano and basil, garlic, onion, artichokes, tomatoes and the finely grated zest of one lemon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the juice of the lemon. Delicious eaten right away warm, or place in the refrigerator to chill before serving.  If chilled first, fluff with fork before serving.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mustard and Vinegar BBQ Pulled Chicken in a Slow Cooker

This recipe is my new favorite for pulled chicken.  It is a nice, basic BBQ without it being too overpowering. Mustard and vinegar based sauces are very common in the south and this one is similar to a Carolina BBQ. It could also be called a "White BBQ" as well.  If you have never tried a Mustard BBQ you are missing out!  It has such a different flavor then the traditional ketchup and molasses sauces that are more common.  It is slightly sweet (but not too much!) and a bit tangy and well, just plain delicious!

The chicken was incredibly juicy, fall-apart tender and jam-packed with flavor.  This isn't a spicy sauce at all, so it is perfect for kids.  And if you tend to like a little more "kick" or more of a saucy BBQ then think of of this as a nice base for flavorful chicken and then top with your favorite tomato-y BBQ Sauce- a great way to please different family members that each like different types of sauces.  You will be happy either way!   I served this sandwiches with my Quick Pickled Onions and they were a perfect combo!  I highly recommend making them both for dinner.  De-lish!

Mustard Vinegar BBQ Pulled Chicken in a Slow Cooker

3 pounds chicken thighs, breasts, or a combination of the two
1 medium onion, cut in half and then again in quarters
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dry ground mustard
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon chili powder (depending on heat preference)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
rolls or buns of choice

Place the chopped onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the chicken on top of the onions and add the garlic, ground mustard, chili powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on high for 3-4 hours (or on low for 6-8 hours).  Do not keep opening up the slow cooker during the cooking process, but keep an eye on it.  Don't be afraid to add more liquid (apple cider vinegar or even a bit of water or chicken stock) to the pot if the sauce is cooking down too quickly.  Remember, you want the liquid, that is your sauce!

About an hour to 40 minutes before your final cooking time*, very carefully, because the chicken will be hot, remove the meat from the slow cooker and place on a large cutting board. Using two forks, shred the chicken by pulling away from each other. The meat should be very tender by this point. Place the shredded chicken back into the slow cooker, stir well and continue to cook for that additional 30 minutes to an hour.  This will make the chicken nice and juicy because it will soak up some of the BBQ sauce.

*I have found that if I cook the chicken on high, at two hours into the cooking time is when I remove the chicken and shred it.  Then replace it and cook for that additional 30 minutes to an hour.  At this point the chicken is cooked, you just want the chicken to get nice and saucy.

You can either enjoy as is, or serve alongside a favorite BBQ sauce and Quick Pickled Onions.  Top onto lightly toasted buns and enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quick Pickled Onions

Oh how I love pickles. They are deliciously pungent, tart, salty, sometimes a little sweet and have the best crunch.   They can add so much flavor and dimension to so many recipes.  But you know what my favorite part of the pickle is, those onions and garlic that have been shoved inside the jars to give the cucumbers, peppers and whatnot all their flavor.  Yum.  Tiny pearled pickled onions are the BEST.  My absolute fav.  I will pick those out of my spicy hot Giardiniera jars first followed closely by the califlower. I'm not alone here, am I?

When I stumbled across this recipe on NPR the other day I knew I had to give them a try.  Quick Pickled Onions?  Really?!  How fun!  These things are ready and able to be eaten as soon as they completely cool. There isn't a long curing time like with some pickling recipes- only 25 minutes.  I can handle that. I was making a Mustard and Vinegar BBQ Chicken tonight (I'll give you guys that recipe tomorrow!) and thought they would make a fun new accompaniment instead of the slaw I generally make.

The first time we ate these I wasn't too sure about the cumin flavor, it felt a little too strong and they were very sharp tasting and a little too vinegary.  Still good, but I felt the recipe might need some tweaking.  Until the next day, that is.  I tried them again on my leftover chicken and they. were. perfect. Cold, crunchy, salty, tart, and just the right amount of seasoning.  The cumin was no longer overly pronounced, just a light smokey flavor that really did add to the onions nicely.  So next time I make them I will definitely give the onions more time to get icy cold in the fridge before serving.  Now when i walk past the fridge I can't help snatching a few every now and then!  They would have been dangerous when I was pregnant and really craving vinegar flavors!

We originally had them on the pulled chicken sandwiches.  But they are also yummy topped on a burger, tossed in a salad, and today I added them to my tuna sandwich.  Anywhere you want a little of the pickle flavor without committing to a full blown (cucumber) pickle, these are your guys.

Quick Pickled Onions
recipe courtesy NPR

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 medium onions, about 1 1/4 pound (red onions turn a beautiful pink when pickled)

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan, and place over medium heat.

While the brine heats, prepare the onions. Peel and trim them, and cut them in half from root to stem end. Then slice each half as thinly as you can into half-moons. Ideally, no slice should be thicker than 1/4 inch.

When you've finished slicing the onions, check the brine. If it isn't boiling, increase the heat to high. When the brine boils, add the onion slices all at once, and stir to combine. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for about 25 minutes.

Transfer the onions and brine to a large bowl, and set aside to cool at room temperature. (Or, if you're in a hurry, put the bowl in the refrigerator.) When the onions are fully cooled, pour them and their brine into jars with tight-fitting lids, and store in the refrigerator. Unlike other types, these quick pickles are ready to be eaten as soon as they are fully cold.

These pickles will keep, chilled, for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turkey and Black Bean Burritos

This is an awesome way to use up some of that leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas dinners.  It gives it a completely new life and packs a ton of wonderful flavor.  Our whole family loved it, including both of my little boys.  Owen, I think has a favorite new food!  Black beans and babies really are a perfect combination.  It is easy for them to feed themselves, they are super healthy and with this seasoning it made it flavorful but not overpowering.  In our house, we like to serve all of the toppings in individual bowls so everybody can fix their own burrito as they like.  I found that with kids, any opportunity they can make it themselves, they are more inclined to add a variety of ingredients and then love the taste because they "cooked" it themselves.  This works awesome with salads too.  The more colorful, the more often kids are to try them.

Turkey and Black Bean Burritos

10 oz cooked turkey (or chicken), shredded
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 medium onion, sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 packet Taco Seasoning (I like to get the low sodium variety)
3/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

to serve
flour tortillas
lettuce, shredded
tomatoes, chopped
sour cream or greek yogurt
taco sauce
shredded cheese

Saute in a medium skillet the peppers, onions and garlic in olive oil until they are soft and tender. Add the cooked, shredded turkey/chicken, black beans, water and taco seasoning.  Stir well to combine and creates a sauce.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes until warmed through.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Transfer to a large bowl and serve alongside tortillas and all the toppings for a burrito free for all.  Enjoy!


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