Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, that is then baked in a tandoor oven, served in a masala("mixture of spices") creamy tomato sauce.   A popular dish through out the world.  A survey in the United Kingdom claimed that it is that country's most popular restaurant dish.

Traditionally, the chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices for an hour or over night.  I'm not that patient, especially, during the week.  Before I leave the house, I select a protein from the freezer, plop it in a container and into the fridg in goes to thaw out while I'm at work.  When I come home, I check the pantry for what I have on hand and make our meal.  Yes, some days I know exactly what I'm making, but most nights I rely on my pantry staples.  This is an easy and quick version of Chicken Tikka Masala.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4


1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken, cubed
1 lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground red pepper
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
1-2 tablespoons grape seed oil (or canola, vegetable or corn - something with a high smoke point)

Sauce Recipe
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala* or (1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp cloves)

1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup frozen peas (optional- not traditional)
1/2-1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


In a medium sized bowl, combine chicken through ginger.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a medium sized skillet.   Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with a paper towel.  Place chicken in skillet and cook for two minutes per side.  You may need to do this in two batches because you don't want to over crown your pan.  Transfer chicken to bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

For the sauce- use the same pan used to cook the chicken.  Melt butter then add garlic and jalapeno; cook for one minute.  Stir in your spices (coriander through garam masala) then add the tomato sauce.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all the remaining chicken bits (aka fond). Allow to simmer for 15 minutes on a medium low heat.  Stir in cream; simmer to thicken about 5 minutes.  Add chicken and peas and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust salt to your taste.

Garnish with cilantro. Serve with basmati rice, naan or pita bread.

Note:  Garam Masala is now widely available at your local grocer.  You can also make your own.

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine spices in a bowl. Transfer to an airtight container, and store in a cool, dry place.

Note: you can make this dairy free by using 1 cup of coconut milk in place of the cream.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cottage Pie

Have you ever read a book where a meal was described in perfect detail and you felt as if you were at the dinner table?  Does a character in your favorite TV show go on about their favorite dish?   After years  of  Red Dwarf and watching Lester devour chicken vindaloo, I decided to give it a try (but that's another post).  P.S. totally delicious.

Often this is how my evening menus come together.  This weekend has been a Masterpiece Theater/PBS type of weekend.  I watched almost two seasons of Upstairs Downstairs and wouldn't you know it they mentioned cottage pie a time or two.  After a little digging online, I found a few recipes and some background history.  According to Wikipedia, "The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791, when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (cf. "cottage" meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers)."  Can you imagine  teaching people that potatoes are edible.

On to the recipe part!  I tested this recipe on my picky eater (aka man of the house), but I had to modify it since he does NOT eat mashed potatoes...What the....
My recipe is based on Martha Stewart's Cottage Pie with a few modification to utilize what was in my pantry.

Rustic Cottage Pie
Servings: 4


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup dark (porter) beer or beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup frozen green beans
  • 2 large russet potato, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat butter over medium. Add onion carrots, garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in tomato paste. Add meat and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through, 3 minutes. Add thyme, Worcestershire sauce and beer(or beef broth) and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced, 2 minutes. (At this point, I poured out access oil - leaving about tablespoon).  Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Slowly add 1/2-3/4 cup water, stir and cook until mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in peas and green beans and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. 

Thinly slice the potatoes using a mandolin or a sharp knife.  In a medium bowl, combine potato slices with salt, pepper, fresh thyme and olive oil, gently toss to season the potatoes   Top the meat mixture with potatoes, overlapping slices. Bake until potatoes are browned around edges and tender when pierced with a knife, 40 minutes. Place under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the potatoes crisp.  Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

And for you visual folks- here is the recipe at a glance.

I asked my honey to take a picture of the final product because we all know how great my camera skills are.  Well, this was the artsy version our meal.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mushroom and Thyme Zucchini

It doesn't happen often, but there are days that I would rather open a can of tuna than cook anything.  Well tonight is one of those nights, unfortunately for me, I don't have any tuna.  This recipe comes together quickly and it's so filling that you won't miss the protein.

Note: This recipe shows up as a side on our Thanksgiving table because its a filling dish for a vegetarian or a  simple side dish to round up the meal.

Mushroom and Thyme Zucchini
Servings: 4 or 6 side


1 lb. sliced baby bellas

1 large zucchini, cut into half moons
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced

4 sprigs of thyme
1 lemon, juiced
1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in large saute pan.  Add mushrooms and onions and saute until golden brown- about 3-4 minutes on medium high.  Add garlic, thyme and zucchini and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Serve immediately. 

Feel free to add your favorite spices.  Some of my favorites are:
a tablespoon of curry powder (less if you don't like it spicy) 

1 tablespoon of diced pimentos
2-3 tablespoons fresh pesto

Enjoy!  Stay warm

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ode to the Summer Tomato

Tomatoes are a treasure of riches when it comes to their antioxidant benefits. In terms of conventional antioxidants, tomatoes provide an excellent amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene; a very good amount of the mineral manganese; and a good amount of vitamin E.

A portable, delicious, and healthy snack...what's not to love?  This time of the year there are several varieties available on the market.  Check out your local Farmers Market and explore the greatest the season has to offer.  From grape tomatoes to gorgeous heirloom tomatoes.  They can be simply dressed with a little olive oil,  balsamic and sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Or my favorite, the tomato sandwich! 
Whole wheat bread, a touch of home made mayonnaise, thick cut slices of tomatoes and fresh cracked pepper.

I came across a simple tomato tart recipe that I wanted to try.  As some of you know, I recently moved into a new place and I have not fully unpacked.  I don't feel like I'm making any headway.  Anyway, I was not able to find my tart pan so I improvised.  If you have one, please feel free to use it.  This recipe is based on a Southern Living tomato tart.  I made a few alternations to suit my taste buds.   

Tomato Tart
Serves 4-6


1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts

1 garlic bulb

1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp white cheddar, divided
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
4 large tomatoes 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


Press refrigerated pie crust on bottom and up sides of a square 9-inch tart pan. Bake at 450° for 9 minutes or until pie crust is lightly browned; set aside.

Cut off pointed end of garlic bulb; place garlic on a piece of aluminum foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Fold foil to seal.  Bake garlic at 425° for 30 minutes; cool. 

Squeeze pulp from garlic cloves into a small plate and then mix in the thyme.  Then spread the mixture on the bottom of the baked piecrust.

Sprinkle 1 cup cheese over the garlic.

Slice tomatoes, and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Place on folded paper towels, and let stand 10 minutes. Arrange tomato slices over shredded cheese. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until tart is lightly browned.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kipteh- Iraqi Meatballs

Ramadan Mubarak to everyone who is observing the holy month!

During Ramadan the most wonderful creations are prepared for Iftar. Even the simplest of dishes are expertly prepared and presented.  Tables are adorned with simple and complex dishes.  Plates filled with dates stuffed with toasted almonds and labneh (yogurt), sit along side freshly cooked kibbeh, flafel, and bourek next to that is plate filled with Rice and Lamb, and at the end of the table is an array of baklawa, desserts and fruits.  It's a feast to the eyes and a reminder to be grateful for all the na'mas (blessings) in our lives.

As I've mentioned before I was a foodie even at young age.  I knew who prepared the best dishes and which of our friends and family members prepared amazing food.  One of my father's close friends was married to talented cook.  Everything she served was delicious - perfect seasoning, perfect temperature, and perfectly balanced.  I used to day dream about her dolma -- yes folks, it's true - I love good food.  On one occasion she challenged my taste buds with a Kipteh meatball dish which she called aeen el bakara (eye of the cow).  I wasn't worried since they looked like meatballs to me.  I cut into the meatballs and they were filled with a whole boiled egg.  What the...!  The meat mixture was delicious, but the egg seemed out of place.

Something made me think of this dish recently.  I searched the internet to see the many versions of this dish.  From what I can tell this was an Assyrian dish that is widely popular through out Iraq.  The version I liked best was prepared by an Iraqi/Assyrian women, Mabel.  You should check out her videos, she's gregarious and fun to watch  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXl_rn-qwoo . Her recipe does NOT include the boiled egg which made it the winner. I adapted her recipe to use what I had on hand.  A combination of ground turkey and beef  mixed with shallots and spring onions.  The meatballs were then simmered in a simple tomato sauce.

Grandma McCoy made a similar dish she called porcupine meatballs, but made with creamed tomato soup.  This is a meal that your kids will love. It's simple, tasty and full of familiar flavors.  

Remember, as with all recipes, this is a method of cooking so feel free to change the spices and measurements to suit your taste

Iraqi Style Meatballs
Makes  8-10 servings


3/4 lb. ground turkey
1/4 lb. ground chuck
3 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white onion, minced
3 spring onions, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 cup white or basmati rice that has been soaked for an hour or more, then drained


1/2 white onion, sliced
1 tsp. Indian Paprika (this is slightly hot paprika) you may use chipotle, smoked or sweet papriak
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 14.5 can of tomatoes (tomato sauce, diced, pureed whatever you have)
4 cans water


Combine meat, garlic, onions, shallots, rice and seasoning.  Dip your fingers in cold water prior to working with this mixture as the  mixture can be sticky.  Roll mixture into meatballs.  Set aside to allow the flavors to meld.

In a large, heavy bottomed pot heat one tablespoon of olive oil.  Saute the onions and paprika for a few minutes or until the onions have softened.  Add one can of tomato, then fill that can with water 4 times, this will help loosen any bit of tomato stuck in the can.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Once the sauce is boiling, slowly drop in the meatballs, reduce to medium heat and then simmer, partially covered for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with pita bread, rice, or sauteed Swiss chard.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Massaged Kale Salad

You've all heard about it!  It's considered a nutrient dense food; recognized for its exceptional nutrient richness, health benefits, and delicious flavor.  Eating a variety of natural, unprocessed vegetables can do wonders for your health, but choosing super-nutritious kale on a regular basis may provide significant health benefits, including cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K.

During the winter months when there is a big pot of soup on the stove I like to toss in a few hand fulls of kale.  Or even just simple sauteed with garlic, onions and mushrooms.  In the warmer months when I don't want to be over a hot stove then I turn to salads.  This salad in particular in nutritious, filling and best of all DELICIOUS.  It holds up in the fridge for at least 4 days without the greens wilting.

As with all recipes, use what you have on hand and what your family enjoys.  This is simply a method that can be customized to your palate. 

Massage Kale Salad with Cranberries and Apples

1 bunch kale, leaves torn from the stalks and thinly sliced
1/4 cup of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1 red delicious apples, or pear
1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries (whatever you have)
1/4 cup red onion, minced or grated using a micro plane
1/4 cup toasted nuts (I used pepitas/pumpkin seed)


In a large bowl, toss the sliced kale leaves with a small drizzle of the olive oil and a bit of Kosher salt; massage with your hands until the kale softens and wilts, about 2-3 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk honey, apple cider vinegar, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pour dressing over the kale, toss in apples and cranberries.  Stir to incorporate.  Chill for an hour or two to all the flavors to meld.  Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds before serving.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

South Western Quinoa - with black beans and corn

Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in Food Revolution Day put on by Fit City Kennesaw.  I'm happy to say we had over 150 people signed up to attend a cooking class called “See It, Make It, Eat It” that was conducted at the Edge Kitchen off Jiles Road by instructors to teach people how to prepare healthy foods.

My dish for the day was the Quinoa and Black Bean Salad or what I would like to call a Southwestern Quinoa Salad.  Quinoa is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds.  Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source of complete protein.  It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. 
Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to white rice or couscous.  Make a double batch when you  make it and use it in several dishes through out the week.  It can go from breakfast to dinner with a few swap outs.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ - 1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 ½ cups liquid - water, vegetable broth, chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
10 oz frozen corn or 3 ears corn
2 15 oz. can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup cilantro, chopped
Heat oil in pan over medium heat.  Stir in onions and garlic.  Saute until lightly browned.  Meanwhile, place quinoa and liquid in a pot, bring to a boil.  Stir, cover, and reduce to low heat.  Allow to cook for  20 minutes.

Mix quinoa with seasoning, corn, black beans, onion mixture, lime juice and cilantro. Allow to cool for one hour in the fridge to let the flavors meld. Taste to adjust seasoning.

This is a great salad and will last in the fridge for at least 4-5 in a tightly covered container.

Thank you to everyone that participated in Food Revolution Day, I hope we inspired you to try something new and delicious in your own kitchen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Spaghetti squash, like zucchini, can take over a garden. This is an excellent way to put that abundance to good use. I  cook this for my low carb customer often - It's unique and tasty.

To cook the spaghetti squash Cut in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds. Place with cut side down in a baking dish; add water.  

Microwave: top with plastic wrap and microwave for 8-10 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.

Oven: cover with aluminum foil, bake on 375 for 20-30 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, scoop out squash, separating the strands with a fork.

From here you can mix in some butter, fresh herbs or a spoonful of pesto.  Or try out this hearty vegetarian casserole.

Creamy Spaghetti Squash Casserole


1 spaghetti squash (cooked and prepared as above)
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
10 oz. frozen broccoli, thawed and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk, soy or almond milk
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese + plus two tablespoons (I topped the casserole with mozzarella)


Heat a large saute pan on medium heat.  Melt butter, then add in onion, garlic and mushrooms - saute for 4-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle with flour and mix until the vegetables are coated.  Season mixture with salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme.  Whisk in milk and continue to stir until the mixture thickens.  Add broccoli and cook for two minutes.

In a large bowl, mix cooked spaghetti squash, 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, and mushroom sauce.  Taste and adjust season (if necessary).  Personally, I like more black pepper.

Transfer mixture to a casserole dish and top with remaining Parmesan Cheese.  Bake on 350 for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Store Left over Tomato Paste

Most recipes usually call for a tablespoon or two of tomato paste so what happens to the rest of it?  We all know that it's unsafe to store the left overs in the tin can.  If you plan on using left overs within a day or two then transfer to a glass or plastic bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap.  If you don't plan on using it quickly then use this easy method. 

Spread a piece of plastic wrap on the counter.  Then spoon the remaining paste into the center of the plastic wrap.  Now roll one end of the plastic wrap and shape into a cylinder.  Roll the plastic ends and tuck under the cylinder.  Place tomato paste roll into a ziplock bag and store in the freezer.  Next time you need tomato paste, simply cut a round or two for your recipe.

Left over tomato paste can be frozen for up to three months.  For most recipes there is no need to thaw out the paste before adding to your recipe.
Of course, with that said I prefer to use the tomato paste in a tube, but on occasion the grocery store is out of stock.  What are your favorite food saving tricks?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chicken Khabsa - Chicken and Rice

This is a dish that was introduced to me a few years ago by my friend H.   It's a Chicken, beef, or lamb dish served on a bed of fluffy rice infused with exotic spices - and is a national dish of Saudia Arabia and some of the Persian gulf states.  Some regions also call it machboos.  The chicken or meat in this dish is poached with a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and onions.  The resulting broth is then used to cook the rice.

While I absolutely love this dish - it is a bit labor intensive for a week night meal, but its worthy of a special occasion.

The spice blend can be purchased from any Middle Eastern Store or can be made using spices you may already have in your pantry.  

Khabsa or Kabseh Spice Blend

1 tbsp coarse black pepper

1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp fennel
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp ground cardamom
Mix ingredients together to create a well combined spice mixture. Store in a cool, dry area.

Khabsa - Chicken and Rice

2 cups basmati rice - washed and soaked for an hour

2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup raisins  soaked in 1/4 cup of water or apple juice (then drained)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pine nuts or pistachios
3  teaspoons salt - you will use 1 1/2 for the broth and 1 1/2 for the rice
3 tablespoons kabsa spice (see above)
4-6 tablespoons butter or ghee
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken breasts or 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks
2-3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
5 cups water

In a medium sauce pan, combine water, chicken, 1/2 cup of onions, cinnamon stick, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer.   Cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  (This can be done a day a head of time)

While the chicken is simmering - rinse and soak your basmati rice.

In a large pot add olive oil and one tablespoon of butter/ghee.  Add the remaining chopped onions, tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.  Then add the drained rice and the khabsa spice, 4 cups of the chicken broth, and one tablespoon of butter/ghee.  Bring to a boil then stir and cook on low heat.  Cover and allow to cook for 45 minutes. Fluff with fork prior to serving.

In a small pan, add the remaining butter and toast the pine nuts, almonds and raisins, allow to cook until they are brown and toasted.  

Shred the chicken and set aside until rice is cooked.

When you are ready to serve your meal.  Spread rice on a platter and then garnish with chicken, nuts and raisins.  Serve with salad or yogurt.

Don't let this recipe intimidate you - I promised it's super Delicious.