Friday, 20 February 2015

Citrus and Balsamic Chicken Breasts

This meal was my chance to clear a lot of bits and pieces out of the fridge, and did it ever feel good! I had some chicken breasts that I wanted to cook, and when I pulled everything out of the fridge, I found quite a few things to use up.

There was some cooked rice, fresh basil, half a tomato and half a shallot that I heated together and turned into a side dish. Lots of colour and flavour, very tasty.

There were some carrots, and these were sliced and boiled until just tender, and then I heated them up with the last tablespoon of chipotle peach jelly...a kind of glazed carrots, but with a little bit of a kick from the chipotle.

As for the chicken, I finished off the plain Greek yoghurt, some balsamic vinaigrette and used up some zest from the many lemons, limes and oranges that are in the fruit bowl.

For the marinade, mix together:

2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
1 teaspoon each of lemon, lime and orange zest
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
salt and pepper to taste

Pour the marinade over the chicken breasts, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

The chicken breasts I was using had been cut in half so that each one was half the thickness of a regular breast.

Heat a large pan, and cook the chicken. No oil is needed, as the oil in the vinaigrette is sufficient.

If you feel that the chicken is starting to dry out, add a splash of chicken stock to the pan. This also gives you some sauce for your rice.

When the chicken is cooked through, serve it with the rice and vegetables.

  • Any vinaigrette or salad dressing can be used in the marinade. If you have a creamy dressing, the yoghurt can be omitted.
  • Sour cream or buttermilk can also be used in place of the yoghurt.
  • Instead of adding a vinaigrette to the yoghurt, add juice from half a lemon, lime and orange as well as a bit of olive oil. Fresh herbs or minced garlic can also be added.
  • Plain yoghurt is your best choice, but a flavoured one can also be used. Just remember that there is usually a lot of added sugar, so it needs to be balanced out with some acid, such as extra vinegar or lemon juice.
  • The chicken can be cooked on the grill, or browned in a pan and finished off in the oven. It can also be cut into strips or chunks and skewered before grilling, or breaded and baked...chicken strips.
  • To glaze carrots with something other than just brown sugar or honey, think outside the box...maple syrup; red pepper or spicy fruit jellies; wine jellies; apple juice; balsamic vinegar and a bit of brown sugar. Cook them until just tender, then heat them when you are ready, along with the 'glaze' of your choice.
  • Leftover rice can easily be re-purposed, just look around for herbs, vegetables, nuts or seeds that will complement your meal. Stir fry it all together in a non-stick pan, stirring often and you have a tasty side dish. Try things such as frozen peas; green onions; red peppers, fresh or roasted; chick peas; chopped fresh chives or thyme; the last bit of salsa in the jar; a bit of BBQ or hot sauce; crumbled blue cheese; minced chipotle peppers, or even just some of the adobo sauce; toasted almonds.
  • The leftover chicken was used for sandwhiches at lunchtime today, and tasted just as good cold as it did hot. It can also be used on a salad, in a wrap, on a pizza or in a pasta dish.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Grapes and Spiced Honey Roasted Almonds

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the salad before it got whisked off to work for lunch today, but I can still share the process. The inspiration for the salad was a bowl of grapes that were starting to go soft, as well as some feta cheese. I threw in some fresh red pepper and cucumber and roasted some almonds with honey and spices.

The salad had crunch, spice, sweetness and tartness...yum yum!

Start by heating the oven to 350F.

Put the grapes into an ovenproof dish. I had about 2 cups of seedless red grapes.


Black pepper
Fresh thyme leaves
Olive oil

Mix everything together so that the grapes are coated with oil. Place into the oven and bake until the grapes start to pop open, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a small pan, heat:

pinch of chili flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil

Toss 1 cup of whole almonds in this mixture. Place in an ovenproof dish, in a single layer, and place in the oven with the grapes.

Roast the nuts until they darken and crisp up, and you can smell the aroma of almonds and spices.

Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool.

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, with a sprig of fresh rosemary in it for flavour.

When it boils, add 1 cup of quinoa. When it comes back to a boil, cover and turn the heat to simmer.

Allow it to cook slowly until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the pot and place in a large bowl.


the cooked grapes
diced cucumber
diced red pepper
thinly sliced green onion

Gently toss together. Season with salt and pepper, and dress with olive oil and fresh lime juice to taste. Top the salad with crumbled feta cheese and the roasted nuts.

This type of salad is a perfect lunch idea, easy to put together and easy to eat. The quinoa provides protein, fibre and iron and the fruit and vegetables add crunch and more vitamins and minerals. The nuts and feta cheese help to balance out the meal, with more protein, and fibre.

  • The vegetables can be varied, use what you have available. Add chickpeas, olives, grape tomatoes, avocado, orange segments, mango, corn, blanched broccoli or fresh baby spinach leaves. Dried fruit is also a great option, adding sweetness and texture to the salad.
  • Serve the salad as a side salad along with grilled chicken or salmon.
  • I like to keep quinoa in the pantry as it is easy to cook, and adapts to any flavours you choose to pair it with. Another choice instead of quinoa is couscous, or cooked orzo. 
  • If you have leftover meat, shred it up and add it to the salad. If I have a lot of eggs, I boil a few and add those as well.
  • As far as dressing, I usually just go light by adding lemon or lime juice and olive oil to taste. Balsamic vinegar can also be used.
  • Add layers of flavour to your salad by using different fresh herbs and spices when cooking the quinoa, roasting nuts or seeds, grilling meat. Use chicken or vegetable stock to cook the quinoa; apple juice can also be used for part of the liquid.
  • By using a strong cheese to finish off the salad, you add yet another layer of flavour. Try and pair the cheese with the predominant fruit or vegetable in the salad: mango or peach and goat cheese; pear, apple or grapes with blue cheese; dried or fresh figs with fontina or asiago.
  • The salad can be made a day or two ahead. If you want to vary your salads, cook up the quinoa and keep it in the fridge, well covered. All that you need to do now is add in whatever you feel like, and lunch is done!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Tandoori Chicken and Goat Cheese Pizza

Pizza, with a twist! The naan bread I found hiding in the freezer, the last of the goat cheese and the last red pepper inspired this pizza. I marinated a couple of chicken breasts in some of the Greek yoghurt I had, along with fresh garlic, ginger and tandoori masala...this provided most of the flavour.

Make the marinade by combining:

3/4 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon tandoori masala
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, grated
2 teaspoon lemon juice

Place 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts into the marinade and make sure they are well coated.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and cook in a frying pan, in the oven or on the grill until they are fully cooked. Allow the chicken to cool before slicing thinly.

Thinly slice:

3 shallots

Cook with a bit of olive oil until they start to soften and caramelize.


1 red pepper, thinly sliced

Season with salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat.

Assemble the pizza:

Spread pizza sauce over the naan bread, then top with the shallots and red peppers, followed by the thinly sliced chicken.

Crumble the goat cheese over the top of the pizza, and add a bit of grated mozzarella if you wish.

Place the pizzas onto a baking sheet and bake at 350F until hot, with soft gooey cheese on top.

  • The tandoori masala provides all the flavour and spiciness needed for this pizza, and the goat cheese counteracts that with it's tangy creamy texture. The masala is available in most large grocery stores, or smaller ethnic stores. If you want to add to the variety of spices in your pantry, find a recipe and make your own (you might need to purchase a few different spices, but this gives you an opportunity to experiment).
  • Various Indian curry pastes are available; feel free to substitute one of those. Thai red curry paste would also work well.
  • Another cheese that complements the spiciness of Indian style dishes is feta cheese.
  • Of course, the garlic naan bread added its own twist to the dish, but pizza crusts, pita bread or foccacia would also be fine. This type of pizza is really just an open faced sandwhich!
  • If you wish to make your own pizza crusts, try the recipe in the post Grilled Pizza.
  • I had quite a few shallots to be used; I would normally opt for onions when making something like this.
  • Roasted, or fresh, cherry tomatoes add a juicy burst of sweetness, but I had none. Next time!
  • I did use canned pizza sauce. I have also mixed tomato paste with tandoori masala to taste, and a bit of water to thin it out. If you are using a curry paste, spread a thin amount of that over the crust, or mix it into tomato paste.
  • Top the pizza with shredded spinach as soon as it comes out of the oven. The spinach will wilt, and add colour and another vegetable to your meal. If you want to add it before baking, I suggest wilting it, squeezing out as much moisture as you can and roughly chopping it. Adding it fresh before baking allows the moisture to come out of the spinach, and you can end up with a soggy pizza.
  • Leftover curry or butter chicken can be shredded up and used in place of the tandoori chicken. Use some of the sauce as your pizza sauce.
  • Cold leftovers make great breakfast in our house, as well as heated for lunch.