Last winter, I became obsessed with cooking one pot dinners. I like the simplicity, of course, but also the challenge of making rice and other grains cook perfectly with meat and vegetables at the same time. It's all about the timing, proportions of ingredients, and temperature.
This chicken and rice dish was one of my winners. It's super easy, tasty, and you probably have the ingredients in your house at all times.
Ingredients: 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (not pictured), olive oil, basmati rice, 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, garlic powder, bay leaves, Lawry's seasoned salt, paprika, and black pepper.
Traditionally, these types of dishes are made with short grain rice, because long grain rice like basmati is more fragile and prone to breaking in the cooking process. However, I've been using basmati because it has a lower glycemic index than other kinds of white rice, making it healthier for those watching their sugar intake.
In a large cast iron pot, heat 3 T. olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides. After turning them over, season with 1/2 t. garlic, 1/2 t. seasoned salt, 1 t. paprika, and 1/4 t. pepper. If you like things spicy, you could totally add Tabasco sauce or any other hot sauce at this point.
Add the can of tomatoes, 3/4 c. rice, 1 1/4 c. water, and 2 bay leaves. Stir, and allow to come to a boil.
After the mixture boils, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Stir the mixture gently once or twice during this time, but don't mix it too much or you will break the rice.
When it's done, the rice will be tender and simmering in its own sauce:
Yummy! Quick, easy, and healthy: my favorite combination for weeknight dinners. There is something so magical about cooking rice with sauce. Every time, I marvel at how such a simple process can make such deep and wonderful flavors. Enjoy!
I had a rough couple of weeks at school. If there were a soundtrack to my day, it would be the song, "You Had a Bad Day." Without going into detail, I felt a bit ... roughed up by my life.
Now, when I feel that way, I turn to baking. Banana bread is my comfort zone.
My favorite banana bread recipe comes from the Tassajara Bread Book, a cookbook written by Edward Espe Brown, a Zen practitioner. If you don't already own it, get it! It's a timeless classic. This is the bread cookbook my mother had in our house while I was growing up.
Many people have written about the soothing, relaxing, and meditative qualities of baking. For me, that feeling has several components. First, there is the relaxation of the familiar routine. The motions of making bread are so familiar to my body that I go through them like a gentle dance. It's like a rhythm that I perfect more and more each time I do it. I can literally mix up this bread in 5 minutes, but I'm not hurrying; I've just done it so many times.
Into the bowl: 2 c. mashed banana (the riper the better), 2 eggs, 1/2 c. oil, 1/2 c. honey, 1 grated lemon rind, 1/4 t. salt.
For me, this bread is also relaxing because it's the banana bread of my childhood. My mother didn't bake a lot (though she made an amazing variety of masterful soups and roasted meats). But I remember her baking this banana bread. To me it tastes like "the right" banana bread.
The recipe also has the distinction of being the only recipe I've used that contains 100% whole wheat flour and doesn't come out dry and tough. It also has no refined sugar and no dairy!
So, you add to the bowl: 2 c. whole wheat flour and 1 t. baking soda. Stir until just combined, and pour in an oiled loaf pan.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
I think for me, the real reason baking bread is relaxing is that I get to make it perfect for myself. Each time I bake, it's my time, my space, my rhythm, and my exploring the recipe. I can make it taste how I like it. For me, the process of baking is a process of coming back to myself when I'm feeling off center. And that, my friends, is truly Zen.
Try this banana bread! It's amazing. And enjoy in good health.
Due to the immense popularity of my Breakfast of Champions post, I wanted to post a quick update. This is just another version of the scrumptious breakfast I am still eating pretty regularly! Here it is!
I squeezed out some lemon juice into a strainer, and poured it into a bottle. This little spray bottle holds the juice of three lemons. With the lemon slices, I was only using about one lemon a week, so I calculate this bottle will last me three weeks! I do have to keep it in the fridge to keep it fresh.
So, to recap: lemons are cheap, they smell great, and apparently, they make really great deodorant! This seems like one of those things that's too good to be true, but it's continued to work for me. I've had no skin reactions and I have pretty sensitive skin. The only contraindication for putting lemon on your skin that I know of is that it can make your skin more sun-sensitive. But since armpits are rarely out in the sun, I think I'm safe.
Let me know if you try this!
For the Italian vegetable one, I used 1 c. fresh spinach, 1 diced tomato, 1/4 t. Italian seasoning, and 1/4 c. parmesan cheese. For the sausage cheddar one, I used 1 c. chopped cooked breakfast sausage and 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
Then, just pour the egg mixture on top and bake for 25-30 minutes!
Super easy! It makes a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Also freezes beautifully and reheats well. Enjoy!
Now, I used these things because this is what I had in my kitchen at the time. I love the "exercise" of seeing what I have lying around and making something out of it...
So here's what I did. I shredded that chicken:
I mixed the can of enchilada sauce with 1/3 c. water and 1 c. plain yogurt:
Then, I oiled a 9 by 9 glass pan and started layering things like a lasagna. Here's how I did the layers:
1/4 of the sauce
layer of tostada shells (3 shells)
1/2 the chicken
1 c. of spinach
1/4 of the sauce
3 tostada shells
1/2 the chicken
1 c. of spinach
4 tostada shells
the rest of the sauce
Here are pictures of the layering process:
You can see I arranged the tostada shells so they covered the surface of the pan.
Then I covered this with aluminum foil and baked at 375 for 30 minutes. I uncovered and baked for 10 more minutes. And the end result:
It was delicious! A little bit messy coming out of the pan, but it totally hit the spot for that enchilada craving. It reminded me a bit of chilaquiles as well (a Mexican dish consisting of tortilla chips and enchilada sauce baked together). This was also lower in fat and calories than your typical cream-based enchilada sauce. Try it out sometime! And let me know what you think!
Dilemma: You would like to wake up on Saturday morning and have fresh cinnamon rolls and coffee for breakfast. BUT, you don't want to get up at 4 am. I don't blame you. A staunch morning person, I feel that 4 am is too early for anyone. But I'm going to show you how to make it happen!
This recipe is awesome, and I can't take credit for inventing it. It was given to me by one of my coworkers. Man, FACS (Family and Consumer Science) teachers really have some good recipes, people. But the genius of this method is that you could do this with ANY quick bread recipe you like.
Allow me to demonstrate. Step 1: Friday night. Throw the following into a gallon ziploc bag: 2 c. flour, 1 T. baking powder, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 c. sugar. Put that bag on the counter. Go to bed.
Step 2: Wake up on Saturday. Stumble into kitchen. Preheat oven to 350. Put the coffee on. Beat together in a bowl: 1 egg, 1 c. milk, 1/3 c. plain yogurt, 2 t. vanilla. Add the ingredients in your ziploc bag. Don't overmix! It should look like this:
Oil a standard loaf pan and put the bread mixture inside:
Then, melt 2 T. butter in the microwave. Stir in 1/3 c. sugar and 2 t. cinnamon. It will make a slurry-type mixture:
(Note glowing blue light of coffee pot in background.)
Next, put the cinnamon mixture on top of the bread. Use a knife to swirl the cinnamon into the bread:
Throw that bread in the oven! Now, go enjoy your coffee for 45 minutes. Check in on Facebook. Or, go back to bed! 45 minutes later, you've got breakfast!
Now, I'd like to say "wait 30 minutes until cooled before removing the bread from the pan." But I won't. Because honestly, I never do that. This bread is totally amazing when hot from the oven. So go ahead and hack out a piece while it's still hot:
Doesn't get any better than this! Recipe is included below. I love this method for making quick breads, preparing the ingredients the night before! Let me know if you try it!
So I've been having a thing with zucchini this summer. I just love it so much. Here at the tail end of summer, there is still a lot of zucchini around in gardens and stores. So, here is one of my zucchini inventions!
Now, some people have a special machine that turns zucchini into "noodles." I don't have one of those things. It's partly philosophical: why spend money on a gadget when a knife will do the trick? And it's partly financial: I don't want to spend money on a zucchini pasta maker. If you have one of those things, I'm not criticizing you, however. I'm secretly a teensy bit jealous.
Anyhoo, you can make this dish with a zucchini pasta-maker thingie, or with a knife.
So, first, you gotta julienne that zucchini. Step one:
Cut your zucchini in half, then make 1/4 inch thick slices out of each half. Step two:
Make matchsticks by cutting each slice of zucchini lengthwise. Now, you can cut each slice, but to save time, I make little stacks of the slices, and then cut them into the matchsticks. The whole process takes 2 minutes, I promise. Much less time then digging out your zucchini cutter gadget anyway...
The other players: Italian herbs (basil, oregano, marjoram, savory, thyme, sage, rosemary), garlic, olive oil, kalamata olives, and parmesan cheese. You could omit the cheese if you're going for vegan here.
Now, I know this recipe is sorta Italian and sorta Greek. Let's think of it as Mediterranean. You could easily use feta cheese instead of parmesan here. Or put any other kinds of olives you like. This is what I had, so this is what I used!
In a medium skillet, heat 2 T. of the olive oil over medium high heat. Let it get nice and hot. Add the zucchini, 2 t. of the Italian herbs, and 1/2 t. of garlic powder.
Saute that for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While you saute, go ahead and rough chop one large tomato. Cut a lemon in half while you're at it.
When the edges of the zucchini start to turn brown, add the tomato, 1/2 c. of the olives, and squeeze half the lemon in there:
Saute for 2-3 minutes more, just until the tomatoes get soft, but not until they are falling apart. I like the zucchini to not be mushy; it should still be slightly firm. You can add a dash of salt here, but the olives are pretty salty, and the parmesan also adds salt at the end, so I chose not to salt at this point.
And serve with parmesan cheese! (Sorry for my weird thumb on the side of this pic!) This made a lovely, light summer dinner for me. You could always serve it as a side dish with some baked chicken or fish as well. Enjoy, and let me know if you try this!
OK, there have been some requests (actually several requests from one person; you know who you are) to demonstrate how I slice an avocado. This is a quick and easy hack that will save you lots of avocado grief in the future. So, here we go:
Slice that avocado in half! Gently pull to separate the halves. To remove the pit, I gently stick the tip of my knife into the pit, and pull upward. The pit will pop right out of its "socket." Now, you can rinse and save the pits of avocados if you are making guacamole. Once the guacamole is done and in its serving dish, stick the pit into the center of the dip. This is not only decorative, but it helps keep the guacamole from turning brown as quickly. There's another avocado hack for ya!
Now, make some vertical slices in the avocado half. Do not cut through the skin of the avocado as you do this. You can also create horizontal lines, like a tic tac toe board, and this will create neat little cubes of avocado for salads!
Using a spoon, scoop out the slices (or cubes) by sliding the spoon along the peel.
And voila! Perfect avocado slices (or cubes). This trick works really well with mangos also! Enjoy, and let me know if you've tried this technique!
I'm a school librarian, cookbook author, and longtime fan of food and literature. Welcome to my blog!