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Patriotic Chicken

July 7, 2010

Happy Independence Day to all!  Chicken Monday is observed on Tuesday this week due to the holiday.  Of course, we did have chicken on Monday in the form of chicken sausage, which has now become a staple in our house.  To recover from the holiday weekend, we cooked a simple meal that ironically turned out to be red, white and blue.  Since our state was under a heat advisory due to excessive heat and humidity, I did not want to be slaving over a hot stove.  So, I made my husband slave over the hot grill!  We grilled chicken tenders with our old standby, Sweet Baby Ray’s original BBQ sauce (RED!).  Since the tenders were boneless, they cooked quite quickly so the time in the heat was kept to a minimum.

On the side, I served store-bought potato salad (WHITE!) and crisp salad from a bag, which are amazingly easy items to serve when the heat makes you feel like walking across the kitchen to get a spoon may end your life!  But, I needed to prepare something homemade to make the dish really pop.  I found a tempting recipe from a newly received cookbook, Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods. Divided into seasonal sections based on what fresh foods are available and paired with stories from local growers around the country, this book will become an important companion in my kitchen as well as on my reading table.  Scanning the summer recipe section revealed a blueberry cornbread with a honey butter glaze that I couldn’t resist (BLUE!).  The recipe was listed as a dessert, but was also recommended as a side.

Blueberry Corn Bread

Corn Bread Ingredients Honey Butter, optional

1 cup yellow cornmeal                                                    2 tsp. melted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour                                                    1/4 cup liquid honey

1/2 cup granulated suager

3 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup whole milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 pint (2 cups) fresh blueberries

1.) Preheat the oven to 400.  Grease and 8″ square baking pan.

2.) In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3.) In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, butter and vanilla.  Add the liquid ingredients to the large bowl wit the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Gently fold in the blueberries.

4.) Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake until the corn bread is lightly browned and firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.  Cool in the pan on a cooling rack.

5.)  If using, whisk together the honey and butter in a small bowl.  Brush all or some of the mixture onto the corn bread, about 10 minutes after it is removed from the oven.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This cornbread was so delicious and versatile that it could be served at any meal, or even for dessert.  The bread is just lightly sweetened, but every bite is bursting with big blueberry flavor.  So far we have consumed the bread for dinner, at lunch and at breakfast.  I also feel – as I do with many things – that a scoop of ice cream served with a slice of this cornbread would be the perfect end to a hot summer day.

The honey butter on top is optional, but we went for it.  It was a good move because as you bring the bread up to your mouth, the fist sense that gets awakened is scent – the lightness of the honey wakes your brain up for the treat it is about the receive.   In my mind, summer dishes are all about sides.  You can slap anything on the grill and it will taste good, but if you serve the right sides, your average summer cookout because an event to remember.  Adding this blueberry cornbread will lighten up your weeknight menu or give your guests something to remember.  Happy Summer!


Blueberries are a treasured summer fruit.

photo credit:  http://www.thesunblog.com/gourmetgal/blueburries.jpg

Loaded Potato Leek Soup

May 18, 2010

Spring time is in full swing, which can only mean on thing – fresh, seasonal vegetables are beginning to appear.   One of my favorite springtime veggies is the wild-looking leek.  I only discovered leeks a few years ago, but my life has been forever changed. They are so large that I have to devote a considerable amount of space in the refrigerator for storage and they can be tricky to clean, but the payoff is worth it.  Most people will describe the flavor of a leek as  “mildly onion-like” but I feel leeks have so much more to contribute.  They are lovely sauteed in butter as a side dish or for the base of a soup, which is where this Chicken Monday takes its journey.

When I first set out to find a leek soup recipe, I found very often that the ingredients usually also contained potatoes.  For me this is a win-win because, quite frankly, I never met a potato that I didn’t like.  The soup recipe that I first tried involved not one, but two whole sticks of butter to saute the leeks.   The reviews all cautioned to knock that amount of butter in half, which I wisely followed.  To add insult to your already injured arteries, the recipe also added cream to help thicken the soup.  The end result was a creamy, buttery mess that masked the taste of my precious leeks.   I have been working on my own version and have finally come up with a more balanced recipe that is thick, chunky and delicious, as well as a little more health conscious.  Where is the chicken, might you ask?  Chicken stock rounds out this recipe, making it appropriate for a Monday night feast.

Loaded Potato Leek Soup

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Large Whole  Leek, cut lengthwise and sliced into half-moons

1-2 Stalks Celery, thinly sliced

4-6 Medium Potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

4 Cups Chicken Stock

1/2 tsp. Ground Red Pepper (Paprika or Cayenne, depending on your palate)

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Garnish: Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream, Crumbled Bacon

1.) Melt the butter and olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  (The olive oil will heat quickly, so keep watch that your butter does not brown) Cut the leek and place in a large bowl of cold water.  Swish vigorously to remove grit.  Remove cleaned leeks from water and carefully add to the heated butter and oil.  Add celery.  Saute until tender.

2.)  Meanwhile, prepare the potatoes.  Add potatoes, chicken stock and seasonings to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

3.) Add approximately half of the soup, in small batches to a blender or food processor.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Return pureed mixture to remaining soup.  Stir until well mixed.

4.) Serve soup piping hot and garnish as desired.

This recipe has very few ingredients, but works out to be very yummy with the garnishes. The pureed starchy potatoes make the soup rich and smooth without the addition of cream. The cheese and bacon add just the right amount of richness and salt.   If you wanted to add more depth of flavor to the soup, you could add other cubed root vegetables when you added the potatoes, such as butternut squash, parsnips or even sweet potatoes.  A splash of white wine or sherry would also be a sophisticated addition.

I served the soup with hot, buttered corn muffins.  Garlic bread would also work well alongside this dish.  You need to have something to clean the bowl when you are finished spooning up your soup!

Lovely Leeks. Photo Credit: http://grubchico.org/csa/newsletter/3


Chicken for the Allergy Kid

May 11, 2010

While you may be wondering why there has been such a lapse between all posts, I can assure you that there have been no lost Chicken Monday’s at our dinner table.  So, why then, the lack of writing? Many dinners have been repeats (chicken nuggets with various sides) and some dinners have been hastily prepared (leftover chicken from another meal, reinvented with a different sauce).   The main reason for my lack of posting, however, is my now chronic battle to find food for my growing son, who seems to be allergic to just about everything I have in my kitchen.  By combining the allergy issue with the fact that he was massively addicted to jarred baby food, you end up with a very stressful mealtime situation.  However, thanks to the wealth of information out there – on the internet, in books, and even in food stores – for preparing meals for people with allergies, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Two foods that my son is not allergic to are chicken and rice.   I am finding more and more ways to serve up these two staples in ways that my son will actually eat and in ways that actually taste good for the non-allergenic eaters in the house.  I have literally become a broth factory.  I have on occasion felt myself to be a vulture – greedily eying up chicken and turkey carcasses leftover from recent family dinners.   (See previous post “Simple Chicken Stock” for my easy broth recipe)  Take the broth, add chicken, some frozen vegetables, and instant rice, and you have our family-favorite go-to meal.

Our little soup kitchen was running quite smoothly until a recent heat wave, at which point I realized that I needed to find some alternate dinner options that weren’t so warming.  Thanks to some tips from my sister-in-law, I have perfected a process of steaming chicken that takes minimal effort and produces a blank “chicken canvas” from which we create masterful dinners all week long.  Here’s the deal:

Take boneless, skinless chicken breasts and put them in an appropriately sized pan.  Add 1/2 to 1 cup of chicken broth (I use my stock, or make some quickly from chicken bullion if my supply is depleted).  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in the center.

When the chicken is done, you can use it immediately any way you choose, or store it in the refrigerator.   Then, all week long you can create dishes with your prepared chicken.  We cut off chunks and give it to our son, hot or cold.  For ourselves, the chicken can be used any number of ways:  cut up for chicken salad, shredded for quesadillas or  quick tacos, cubed in mac-n-cheese or other pasta dishes,  or used whole with melted cheese on a chicken sandwich.

I find this preparation to be quick and cost effective, not to mention a healthy alternative to the packaged pre-cooked chicken pieces I have seen in the poultry department in the food store.  While I recognize the convenience, I can not recognize even half of the additives that are also found on the label to keep the chicken “fresh” in those packs.  Steaming your own chicken in your own broth not only produces moist, ready to use chicken, but also keeps you one step closer to knowing where your food comes from.

Marching In

March 9, 2010

Hello Loyal Readers! First, let me give my apologies for the dearth of posts over the last few months.  Next, let me say thank you to every person who has approached me and wanted to know what happened to Chicken Monday.  Not to worry, Chicken Monday has been going strong here at chateau Lubchansky.  It is only my commitment to the blog that has fallen off in recent weeks.  Now, to make up for the lost time, I present to you the overhauled, brand new Chicken Monday for the new year.  Read it and eat, baby.

This recipe comes from Real Simple magazine, which true to its namesake presents recipes each month that are, well, really simple.  The recipes offer few ingredients and quick cooking times which are extremely helpful for the “Mom Who Tries To Do It All.”  I modified the following recipe – touted as “kid-friendly” to make it more “adult-tasty” because the kid in this house is still allergic to half of the ingredients.  And now – drumstick roll please – your first Chicken Monday of 2010:

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Broccoli

lb Rigatoni

This dish makes a lot on a small budget.

1-2 tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion, sliced

12 oz. fully cooked Chicken sausage links, sliced

1 small head Broccoli, cut into florets and stems sliced

1 can White Cannelloni beans, drained

1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1.) Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

2.) Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the onion, stirring often, for 3 minutes.

3.) Add the sausage and cook, stirring until browned, 2-3 minutes.

4.) Add the broccoli, beans and 2 cups of water and simmer, covered, until the broccoli is tender, 5-6 minutes.

5.) Toss the pasta with the sausage mixture and any remaining liquid and the Parmesan.

Tossing the rigatoni and sausage mixture.

I served this dish along with a warm batch of Pillsbury croissant rolls to my husband and parents.  The rolls were a good choice because they came in handy to sop up all of the delicious liquid that was leftover on the plate when the pasta was finished.  All those served offered rave reviews.  Even the diner who had the Weight Watchers option – just the sausage mixture with broth, sans rigatoni – commented that the food was very good and mentioned that the beans “made the meal.”  The cannelloni beans were my addition to this dish and it was a successful improvement.   I also upped many of the quantities from the original recipe because they were listed as odd amounts.  (Who wants to use 3/4 of a box of pasta?)

This hearty meal would easily serve six adults – or four adults with two lunches for the next day.  Any blogger takers for “Chicken Leftover Tuesday?” Hmmm…we may be onto something here.

Chicken Monday - Great Sucess!

Wing Nite

December 17, 2009

Wings! Nothing draws the football-watching, pizza-loving, bar-going, after-hours-craving folks in like a neon sign pro-porting some sort of inexpensive wing gimmick to pull in potential customers.  There are all sorts of wings, with each type carving its own niche market (and palate).  For some reason I have considered wings as one of those things that I like to eat, but really don’t ever want to make.  I’m not sure why, because as this Chicken Monday will prove, wings are incredibly easy to make.

I purchased “wingettes” from my local grocer, which are labeled as “first and second parts.”  This basically means they have trimmed and cut the wings already for you and all you need to do is cook them to your liking.  The most delicious way to prepare wings is to fry them and then sauce them, but being a little more figure friendly these days, I went for the baking option.  Here’s how we (my husband and I) prepared our wings:

Heat oven to 400 F.

Line a pan with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Baste wings with your favorite BBQ or Hot sauce.

Bake for 30 minutes, then flip the wings, re-baste and bake for 15 more minutes.

That’s all folks!  I couldn’t believe how easy this was!  I searched all day for wing recipes, some of which included marinating the wings or broiling them, but this was by far the easiest preparation.  The wings came out incredibly juicy and were very tasty.  I served them with the standard carrot/celery sticks and blue cheese for dipping.  I also quickly made a box of Annie’s Homemade Curly Fettuccine with Broccoli, a household favorite.

wings n' things

All being said and done (including the dishes), I will definitely make this wing recipe again.  However, given the option, I will have my brother continue to provide the wings for family affairs as his are much tastier.  How does he do it? I would invite him as a guest blogger, but I’m not sure he’s ready to give up his recipe.

Ten Flavor Chicken

December 9, 2009

At my wedding shower, my bridesmaids presented me with a box of recipes collected from the guests in attendance.  This simple gift has become one of my most treasured possessions and is an invaluable tool for me in my kitchen.  Even though my wedding shower was just about 4 years ago, I am still searching through the recipes and trying new ones all  the time.  This recipe comes from Vicki Williams and was touted as “Our family’s favorite!” on the card.  After a successful run here in my kitchen, it is sure to be a family favorite as well.  I’m still trying to figure out which of the ingredients contribute to the “ten flavors,” but whichever they are, they work fantastically well together.

Ten Flavor Chicken

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/4 stick butter, margarine, or 2 T. olive oil (I went for the butter)

3 cloves chopped garlic (I used only one clove because garlic doesn’t agree with me)

1 small onion, chopped

1 bunch scallions, green & white parts, sliced thin

1 Tbsp. soy sauce (I choose reduced sodium)

2 Tbsp. dry sherry (I used white cooking wine as I don’t usually stock sherry)

1/4 tsp. dry ginger

1 15 oz. can sliced stewed tomatoes, undrained

(1 can chicken broth – See note below)*

You will also need:  Two eggs and about a cup of seasoned Italian breadcrumbs.

1.)  Pound chicken to an even thickness.  (If you purchase the thin-sliced chicken as I did, you can skip this step).  Beat two eggs, dip the chicken in the eggs and then dredge in the breadcrumbs.  Panfry in some oil and remove to a casserole dish.  Arrange in a single layer.

2.) Melt butter in a clean pan.  Saute garlic, onions and scallions until translucent.  Add soy sauce, ginger, sherry, tomatoes and chicken broth, if using.  Simmer 10-15 minutes.  Pour over chicken.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.  (I did desire it, and it was an excellent decision!)

3.) Bake 20 minutes, uncovered in a 350 F oven.

A lovely winter dish.

The chicken and sauce can be made ahead and kept separate until you are ready to bake it.  Add more oven time if your items are cold.

*Use the broth if you would like to “extend” the recipe.  I misunderstood and put it in anyway and I think it was a nice touch and kept the chicken very moist.  I have a lot of the sauce leftover and can use it on pasta or in another dish.  I think if you omitted the broth, there sauce would have a stronger tomato flavor.

While I was cooking this recipe, I was not sure how well the flavors would come together.  I was also worried that the chicken would come out mushy, after having sat in all that liquid.  Much to my surprise, the flavors worked beautifully together and the liquid kept the chicken very moist, while the crispy crust remained unaffected after the baking.  The first intelligible comment I heard after my husbands first bite was “Wow – this is really good!”  If that’s not a rave, I don’t know what is!  The best way that I can describe this dish is a lighter, grown-up version of chicken Parmesan.

The one thing that I noted while preparing this recipe was that the salt levels could get out of hand in a hurry.  I use plain breadcrumbs and season them in-house (no salt).  I also stock and used in this recipe low sodium chicken broth, low sodium canned tomatoes, and low sodium soy sauce.  Even with these lower-sodium choices, I still felt the dish was seasoned properly.  If you are someone who is watching their sodium intake, I was advise making the same choices for this recipe.

Obviously, we had some leftovers as this dish can easily serve 6-8 people.  We plan to cut the chicken into cubes and serve with the sauce tossed in some fresh cheese ravioli.  While I served the chicken with some whole grain rice and steamed French-cut green beans, other options that would work well for the side would be couscous, pasta, spinach or even corn bread.  Please enjoy our newest family favorite!


Mushroom-Chicken Bake

December 1, 2009

The past month has been very chaotic here as my son turned one near the end of November.  While we have continued the Chicken Monday tradition at our table, my recipes have not found their way to my blog.  My apologies to all of my readers!  Here is a recipe that I made several weeks ago and is one of those tried-and-true easy favorites that can be made on a whim and is sure to please a diverse crowd.  Any time I see the words “chicken” and “bake” in the title of a recipe I get excited because the steps are usually easy, the house usually smells wonderful during the cooking time and the results are usually top notch.  This recipe comes from the The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, edited by Julie Fisher Gunter.

Mushroom-Chicken Bake

1 (2 1/2 to 3-lb) boiler-fryer, cut up and skinned (I used the “Pick of the Chick” pack from my grocer, but any package of breasts, thighs and legs will do if you can not find a cut up boiler-fryer)

1/2 cup zesty Italian dressing

1/2 tsp. paprika, divided

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 (4-oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.)  Place chicken in a greased 13 X 9-inch baking dish.  Drizzle dressing over chicken, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of the paprika and pepper.  (Tip:  Turn the chicken so that the side you want to be the finished side, i.e. the side without the bones is face down for the first round of baking.  This way when you sprinkle the Parmesan on later, the wonderful crust that is produced during the bake forms on the side you actually want to eat!)

2.) Bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 30 minutes, basting occasionally.  Turn chicken, and add the mushrooms; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and remaining 1/4 tsp paprika.   Bake 30 minutes more or until chicken is tender.

The finished product, directly from the oven.

When the chicken is finished, it will be moist and surprisingly flavorful – more so than expected due to the few ingredients.  The Parmesan cheese forms a lovely crust, which replaces the lost skin and adds the perfect amount of saltiness to the dish.  I have made this recipe before and it can be served with any number of sides.  My favorites are rice and broccoli.  Other favorites are buttered egg noodles, mixed veggies or even mashed potatoes (white or sweet).

One change I will make next time I make this dish is to line the baking dish with foil first to make cleanup a little easier.  The leftovers (if there are any!) keep very well and the chicken will shred nicely to put over a salad or make into a sandwich.  Enjoy this comforting meal and you can look forward to another recipe next week – Chicken Monday has returned!