PROJECT RECIPE: Tabasco Braised Chicken with Chickpeas and Kale

Mmmm. Just thinking about this dish warms me right up. Which is nice, since it’s 8 degrees right now.

One-pot dishes in a dutch oven and winter were “MFEO.” That’s “made for each other” in Sleepless in Seattle speak. Does anyone remember that line from Gaby Hoffman in the movie? It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. And her character was adorable.

Anyway, I found this recipe for Tabasco Braised Chicken with Chickpeas and Kale on Pinterest from FoodieCrush. Last year at MixedCon, Heidi was one of our speakers, and I have been a fan of her website and online magazine, FoodieCrush ever since. While she’s a curator of beautiful food pics and links to recipes from around the internet, this girl’s got some serious recipe chops to back her up, too.

I think it was the sum of all parts that drew me in: chickpeas, kale, tabasco, braising… All things that get my stomach growling when I see them on a recipe. This one does not disappoint.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. I wasn’t sure if I’d like this, because I imagined the tabasco would be really harsh and acidic. But the recipe doesn’t call for a lot. And a little tabasco goes a long way. It was a nice little kick. Not overpowering at all. The whole pot came together pretty quickly, which was great for a weeknight dinner. Most of the cooking time was unattended. This was so nice and hearty, too; perfect for a cold winter evening.

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I wish this picture was better, but as the pattern has been for the past few Project Recipe pics, this was hot and ready to eat, and I was HUNGRY. So the photo process was a little rushed.

I learned at Mixed Con that a good bit of food that is styled for photo shoots sits for sometimes hours and is manipulated and prodded, and sometimes even window cleaner is used (to clean up greasy streaks on the rims of dishes). These things are all very conducive to taking beautiful pictures of food. By people who make their living showing the world their beautiful pictures of food.

That is not me. I don’t even have a proper camera. I take all my pics with an iPhone 4. No lie. Sometimes, if the picture is really bad, I use Instagram’s filters as a crutch. Because I still don’t like showing you ugly food. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when I take pictures of food, it’s dinnertime. It’s dark outside and my kitchen isn’t well lit after the natural light disappears. And I’ve just worked eight hours, come home and spent the last thirty minutes to one hour cooking dinner, and I just want to sit down and enjoy it. So, some days, if I’m lucky, I can show you beautiful pictures of food worthy of a magazine layout that I made minutes before I snapped the pic. The rest of the time, this is what you get.

I’m trying to get better, but I thought you’d appreciate that I was keepin’ it real, too.

PROJECT RECIPE: Salisbury Steak for Grown-Ups

The title of this recipe made me giggle. I guess that salisbury steak has been relegated to lunch trays around the country (or maybe before the Child Nutrition Act was reauthorized). I have no stronger context of salisbury steak from my life than from school menus. I was dubious then. I think it was just the previous day’s hamburger patties doused in brown gravy.

I was curious where the dish originated from, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. There’s a fascinating article explaining that it was invented by a physician who was a proponent of the low-carb diet for weight loss. Oddly enough, that’s where I’m living now… Not low-carb, per se, just no refined carbs like bread, sugar or rice. Just for two weeks to kick me back into gear.

So, I ran across this recipe on the Nourished Kitchen blog. Anytime I see that a recipe uses grass-fed beef, I am intrigued. Sure, it’s getting more mainstream, but seeing it in a recipe tells me the person who developed it really cares about food–taste and integrity. And those are good things to care about in my book.

I wish I had gotten a better picture. I was hungry, yo.

I wish I had gotten a better picture. I was hungry, yo.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: I added it to my permanent collection. Ground beef is so versatile, but it’s easy to get tired of eating it the same way. It’s nice to a have repertiore of ground beef recipes, and this one is a nice addition to that. It was fairly quick and easy and makes a nice weeknight dinner.

How I changed the recipe: I used dried onion instead of shallots simply because I had that and shallots are like $3.99 for 3 at the grocery store. That’s absurd. I also used a whole egg instead of an egg yolk because I was too lazy to separate it and freeze the white. I also didn’t clarify the butter. I just used it straight up. Again, I was lazy. Instead of beef stock, I used venison stock, also because that is what I had on hand. They’re virtually interchangeable.

As a side note, the Nourished Kitchen is a really awesome blog all about cooking healthy whole foods. The blog is based on Weston Price‘s ideas that eating whole foods leads to a longer healthier life. He studied indigenous populations in remote parts of the world that had not been industrialized, and found that their health was markedly better than that of industrialized populations. One of the big take-aways I’ve gotten from this blog are the benefits of bone-based broths. Bone broths are practically a super-food, and so healthy to eat, especially this time of year. It really is true what they say about chicken soup (but only if it’s homemade).

January 2nd Minestrone

Raise your hand if you’ve vowed to be healthier in 2014.

I stopped making diets my New Year’s resolution a while back. But I still like to shed the excess of the holidays and turn over a new leaf on January 1.

Which is why I made this soup to eat for lunch on January 2nd. It’s healthy and hearty, and perfect to kick off a return to eating better.

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This minestrone is seriously loaded with all the ingredients like cannellini beans, greens, tomatoes, carrots and garlic. There is one thing missing, however… Pasta. The Hubs and I are going to try to kick start healthier eating after New Year’s by cutting out simple starches like white bread, pasta, potatoes and sugar for two weeks. Of course, it’s okay to eat those things in moderation, and we generally do, but we’re just trying to start the first couple weeks strong. This soup is extra full of veggies for fiber and vitamins, and beans for protein and to keep you feeling full.

Even if I weren’t making this with an eye toward clean eating, I would still eat it. I heart vegetables and this soup is loaded!

January 2nd Minestrone (makes 8 servings)

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 quart of tomato halves and their juice
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into bean-size pieces
  • 1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1  medium onion, diced
  • 2 cans beans such as cannellini, kidney or garbanzo
  • half a bunch of kale (about 4 cups chopped)
  • 2 heaping Tb of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • shredded parmesan for serving

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and carrots, and stir. Cook for a few minutes until the onion begins to turn translucent and soft. Stir often to keep the garlic from burning. Add the stock, wine and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and beans. Bring to a simmer and add the kale. Stir well to make sure the kale is covered. Add the basil and thyme. Season with salt and pepper (if you use store bought stock, you may want to omit the salt, just taste it and see if it needs any). Simmer gently over medium low heat for 30 minutes. Check to see if the beans and carrots have softened a bit, and the kale has wilted. If the carrots are still a little firm, simmer 10-15 minutes more, or until softened. Serve with freshly grated parmesan and a piece of crusty bread (or not if you’re not eating white bread…).

If you wanted more traditional minestrone, you could substitute a cup of ditalini, orrechietti or small macaroni for one can of the beans. I’m sure there are many opinions about how to use pasta in soup. Here’s my take. Sometimes I cook it separately then add it to the soup when the soup is done. Even if there are leftovers, the pasta seems to hold up pretty well. Sometimes when I’ve tried to cook the pasta in the soup it is tricky to get done perfectly. You can add the pasta when you add the tomatoes and beans, and cook the soup until the pasta is al dente. I think if you were going to freeze some of this soup right away, that would be okay to cook the pasta that way. If you are going to leave the pot on the stove on low while you eat and maybe have some seconds later, you’ll end up with mushy noodles. Especially after the leftovers are put in the fridge.Make sure you cool the soup down as quickly as possible so the pasta doesn’t continue to cook.

At any rate, this is a great soup for lunch on cold winter days. According to my Lose It! app, each serving is 181 calories.

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