Category: Budget Recipes

Chicken and spinach with white wine and lemon

 

Chicken and spinach
It’s farm share season, and in early summer, that means spinach! I often eat spinach raw in a salad, but it is a great addition to cooked dishes as long as you don’t overcook it into mush. So looking for something simple, I decided on a chicken recipe with spinach in a light white wine and lemon sauce.

I’m chicken recipe oriented for a number of reasons. It’s healthy. It’s relatively inexpensive. It takes on flavors easily, being somewhat neutral, so it is a natural for when you want other ingredients to shine. While in the case of this dish the lemon and white wine come to the front of the stage, by barely wilting the spinach, it will retain its flavor and the chicken will provide the texture and the protein (you could possibly use tofu in this dish, but I would miss the depth of flavor that the chicken offers as it cooks). I have made this with and without chicken broth and haven’t really noticed much difference, other than the sauce can be a bit this if you use the broth. The chicken should offer enough flavor to make the broth unnecessary.

This is very much a standard in my family as it is quickly prepared and cooked, and quite healthy too. I much prefer it to the many boring chicken dishes I am forced to make sometimes. Grilled chicken is nice, but a little wine and lemon juice go a long way to take a boring chicken breast to new levels. Chicken recipes are a dime a dozen, and this is not an uncommon one, but this is the simplest version of this recipe I make, and it is worth the minimal effort to make it.

thinly-sliced-chicken

Chicken, thinly sliced

Cooking garlic

Cooking garlic

Chopped spinach

Chopped spinach

Chicken and spinach with white wine and lemon
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This chicken dish is packed with flavor and a great way to use up a lot of spinach, the mix of textures is fantastic.
Ingredients
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 bunches Spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup chicken broth (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice the chicken into thin strips for fast cooking and a very tender consistency.
  2. Rinse the spinach and chop roughly.
  3. Heat olive oil in a pan and add add garlic.
  4. After a minute (before garlic browns) add the chicken and cook until just done.
  5. Add wine and lemon juice (and broth if you chose to, I often don't).
  6. Toss in the spinach, and cook for just enough time for the leaves to wilt, but not overcook.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Notes
If you find that the sauce is too thin, pour in a little corn starch dissolved in cold water and continue cooking for 30 seconds. You will find that the sauce thickens up nicely (this is the trick to all those thick sauces in Chinese restaurants, they often have corn starch dissolved in chicken broth ready for use, so you vegetarians our there may want to ask if they use broth or water for their corn starch thickener).
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 282g | Calories: 221 | Fat: 9.3g | Saturated fat: 2.0g | Unsaturated fat: 7.3g | Carbohydrates: 7.8g | Sugar: 1.1g | Fiber: 3.8g | Protein: 25.6g | Cholesterol: 62mg

 

Microwave Popcorn Recipe

microwave popcorn recipeThis may not come as a surprise to anyone, but did you know that you can make popcorn in a microwave? Yes, shocking, I know. But what I dislike about buying bags of prepared popcorn ready to go into the microwave is that they are mostly filled with unpronounceable substances that I would not put in my body given a choice. They are also a ridiculous amount of money for what you get. This afternoon, I went out and bought a bag of regular popcorn for almost nothing. I placed a handful of kernels into a brown paper bag, folded up the top and placed it in my microwave oven for about 2 1/2 minutes. 2 and 1/2 minutes later, I was enjoying a bowl of cheap as dirt popcorn seasoned with my favorite smoked salt. I’m not as surprised at how easy this is as much as I’m blown away by the idea that I hadn’t thought to try this long ago. I’m sure many of you reading this may already know how easy this is, but this was my mini epiphany. Now I can make popcorn flavored with just about anything I like and I don’t have to take out the pot and oil, or pay more than movie popcorn prices for a simple bag of microwaved popcorn. This is, by far, the simplest popcorn recipe I have ever come across and works incredibly well.

Cannellini Bean Salad

Cannellini Bean SaladThere are so many variations of this recipe, sometimes called Tuscan cannellini bean salad (the beans are also referred to as cannelloni beans as well), or white bean salad, and the ingredients are often varied and quite good. This is my version, which, of course, makes it the best. You may see a small bowl of this on the table at good Italian restaurants, and while the most common variation uses parsley instead of basil, I much prefer my version. You will too.

Ingredients:
1 19 oz can of cannellini (cannelloni) beans (or any kind of white bean such as butterbeans)
the juice of 1 lemon (~3 tablespooons)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon pesto (or a handful of basil leaves coarsely chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
A baguette or rustic Italian bread, sliced into small cracker-like shapes

Directions:
1. Rinse the beans under water as, while the liquid they are packed in is quite nutritious, it won’t work well if included in this recipe. Set the beans aside. If you prefer, you can use dried beans that you soak, cook, and prepare yourself, but unless you are comfortable doing so and know how to ensure their tenderness, I recommend canned beans.

2. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and pesto (or basil leaves) to a bowl and stir together. The mix does not have to be a perfect emulsion, just a gentle stir will do.

3. Add the beans and stir it up a bit. I like to crush a few of the beans to thicken the dressing mixture allowing it to adhere better to the beans and giving it some texture. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Eat the whole bowl because you can’t stop after testing the flavor. Go back to step 1 and start over and try not to eat the whole bowl this time.

4. Place a spoonful of the bean salad onto each piece of bread and serve.

I always have pesto around so it is easy for me to use it in this dish, but basil leaves work perfectly well and so does parsley. I may experiment with the decidedly non-Italian cilantro to see how that goes. As I always say, experiment yourself, add other items that interest you, and you may chance upon something that blows you away. As you can see from the picture, I also added a lot more garlic than I indicate in this recipe, and woke up this morning still tasting the garlic, which I rather enjoy. Cooking is as much an art as it is a science, so tweak any of the ingredients or techniques to suit your own taste.

I also put the salad in the refrigerator for a bit which causes the olive oil to thicken somewhat. This helps the salad stay together a bit better and allows some tome for all the flavors to blend. I can easily make an entire dinner from a hunk of bread and a bowl of these beans, which is not just frugal, but also delicious and nutritious.

African Peanut Chicken Soup

African Chicken and Peanut SoupThis surprisingly delicious soup may sound odd to westerners, but the combination of peanut butter, tomatoes, and spices is truly a marvel of gastronomic achievement. Peanut is a definite presence in the soup, but is not the dominant flavor, which may sound impossible, but hey, would I lie to you? This is probably my favorite soup of all time. You can easily make a vegetarian version by using vegetable stock and it will be just as good. It is also so easy to make I force my 6 year old to make it for me as punishment for her misdeeds. She misbehaves a lot.

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken stock
as much or as little cooked chicken meat, to your preference
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium sweet potato (or 1 15-ounce can of sweet potatoes, drained of syrup)
1 medium Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 15-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry
1 tsp cinnamon
salt & pepper to taste

Additional Ingredients (they add a nice background, use at your leisure):
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 pinch cayenne pepper (if you like heat)

Directions:
1. Bring the stock to a boil and add the all the ingredients except the chicken meat and peanut butter.

2. Simmer for about 30 minutes, allowing the sweet potato to soften, and then slowly add the peanut butter a bit at a time so that it melts well and into the soup.

3. Puree the soup either with a hand blender, or by transferring the soup to a blender and processing it in batches.

4. Return the pureed soup to the pot, add the chicken, salt and pepper, and serve.

I prefer to make my own stock by putting a whole raw chicken or chicken pieces into a pot of water and boiling for an hour or so. You can then remove the meat and reserve it for later, and cook down the stock until you have about 4 cups. Also, this particular soup is very flexible. Change the amounts of different spices if you would like, I like a lot of cinnamon, which goes so well in this soup that it is astounding. The peanut butter is definitely present in this soup without it being cloying, though, but again, if you prefer more or less, experiment. I also tend to sprinkle a little crushed peanut onto the soup for a garnish when I’m taking a picture for this wildly popular blog, but don’t bother if I’m not serving to guests.

Chai Tea, Simplicity and Substance in a Cup

chaiChai is the name for a spiced Indian tea that is generally served milky and sweet. I particularly like chai in the winter, as it is hearty and warming, but I find it quite satisfying as iced chai tea in the summer as well.

As with most food, there is no rule with chai, it is all about personal preference. Find the flavors you like. Experiment with them. Add more, add less of others. In India, chai, like curry, is no one mix. Different regions use different flavors, and even one particular family may make their curry or chai in a completely different manner than the family next door. Basically, find the flavors you like and play with them until you find your preferred taste.

What I do is simple, I take a black tea that I like (it can be a malty Assam, or a lighter Ceylon, or any thing in between. Using a tea bag from the store will work well too since a lot of flavor comes from the spices that steep with the tea, so heck, go ahead and use that bag that came with your Chinese food last night.

My chai ingredients:
Black tea
Green cardamom (crack the pods open)
Black peppercorns
Cinnamon (whole or small pieces, powdered will work, but won’t filter out easily)
Cloves
Ginger
Vanilla Extract (just a few drops)
Milk
Sugar

Directions:
Steep the mix in hot water for about 3 minutes. Add milk and sugar to your taste, it’s really that simple.

I find the best way to make chai is with an infuser basket. Place your selected ingredients in the basket in your cup, and remove when done. You could always toss all the items in a pot and pour the tea through a strainer, whatever is easiest for you.