Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Putting Off: Easy Tandoori Chicken

Have you ever had something lingering on your to-do list, for weeks? months? years?

I feel this way about a lot things that just sit in my "inbox" of life. To name a few:
Get a new license with my new name from the DMV (so I can subsequently get everything else with my new name on it)
Renew subscriptions
Learn how to use bleach to whiten my whites in the wash, idea
Toss that plant out front away because it has been dead for a while...literally walk right by it everyday
Clean my car
Hang out with friends who have been and will continue to be neglected by a busy a work schedule for the next few months

Zach left early this morning because he had to get an oil change. He said he had been putting it off and just needed to get it done. That is something that took me by surprise. Why can't I just get something done? Well, I am doing just that by blogging this morning since blogging is forever on my to do list because I can never seem to do enough of it.

It just so happens this meal I prepared last Sunday night has been on my mind for far too long. This one goes back to early December when I went to North Carolina for a wonderful girls' weekend with Amanda and Becky. We galavanted around Chapel Hill, where Dr. Becky is doing her residency. We had such a good time taking in the adorable "small town" (and that is me comparing it in size to LA) and the cool woods behind Becky's oh-so North Carolina apartment. We even saw what was left of Occupy Chapel Hill:

We just had the best time sitting in Becky's living room with Mate-the-perfect-dog-and-inspiration-for-me-ever-wanting-a-dog-in-the-first-place talking for hours. I am pretty sure that is what the three of us did for the better part of the first day we arrived. It was like we picked up right where we left off. Do you have friends like that? It is something really special when you can feel the same way with friends as you would with your family.

We did another thing girls love to do when they get together: shop. We ended up at World Market at one point where I picked up some tandori chicken rub/marinade. I thought it would inspire me to get back to the kitchen right when I got back to LA.

Well, here we are 3 months later. I would like to dedicate this meal to that fabulous girls' weekend...and my stomach....and Zach's stomach.

Tandoori Chicken with Curry Couscous and sauteed veggies.

For Chicken:
2 lb chicken thigh filets (you can get breasts or bone in thighs...really anything you want)
2 cups plain greek yogurt (do not use the low fat or fat free kind)
juice from one lemon - fresh!
tandori chicken powder rub/marinade (this was from World Market, but they have a selection of other brands in the ethnic food section in the grocery store)
1 finely chopped onion

For Couscous:
1 box instant couscous (ready in 5 minutes)
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 C almond slivers

For Sauteed Veggies:
1 tbs olive oil
mixed veggies, any kind you like...I used green beans, mushrooms and red onion
sea salt (I had some curry lime sea salt which worked well
slivered almonds

Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag and squeeze lemon all over it. Throw the lemon rinds in the bag too.
Mix the yogurt, onions and the tandoori spice powder together in a bowl and add to the bag with the chicken. Make sure the chicken s coated and let marinate in the fridge for about 2-4 hours
Remove chicken from fridge about 15 minutes before you are ready to bake it.
Set oven to 475 deg F.
Place marinated chicken and all the contents of the bag in a baking dish and place it in the oven for 25-35 minutes (depending on the cut of the chicken you use --- jus check it after 25 minutes.

Make the couscous as directed on the box. Once it has absorbed the water and is ready, add the curry powder and almonds and mix in thoroughly.

Sautee the veggies in a pan with the oil until just tender, adding the salt and almonds during the last 4-5 minutes so the almonds become toasted.

Pile it all up starting with the couscous on the bottom, then the veggies and then the chicken. Use the sauce from the chicken to pour over the plate as well.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We Like to Party

We like to party-we-we-we like to party.

Taking inspiration from the late 90's group, Vengaboys, we like to celebrate holidays, even holidays that are transparently just an excuse to celebrate.

February is full of holidays that are sometimes overlooked: Valentines Day and Presidents' Day. I cannot yet speak for Presidents' Day (a day off from work might be enough of a celebration), but this was our first Valentines Day as a married couple so there is no way we can ignore that!

Zach has made dinner for me precisely one time during the almost six years we have been together. He made me spaghetti and meat sauce one night when we were still in the ooey gooey stage of our relationship. It was delicious! His cooking skills have since been confined to manning the grill during steak or burger nights. I love to cook so I am not complaining, but when he said he was going to cook dinner, I jumped at the chance to see what he would come up with.

Beef Wellington. Fancy right? Well, it was delicious. He topped it all off with a great little homemade sauce, steamed broccoli and a sweet potato. We spent our first Valentines Day as a married couple eating like royalty on a blanket of the floor of our living room.

Of course, I can never stay out of the kitchen so my gift to Zach was to make him our signature cocktail that we served for guests at our wedding last year.

This was a combination between two recipes we came across while experimenting on mixing cocktails for our big day. We set up sort of a science lab of little bottles and garnishes and went to town on tasting different mixtures. We loved two different drinks so Zach went to make some sort of combination of them which turned out to be excellent!

Martha Stewart's Thyme Lemonade + Whisky Magazine's Bourbon Punch = The Lindzachary Wedding Cocktail

The Lindzachary:

1 1/2 C white sugar
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 C water
1 C Whisky Bourbon
2 C pink lemonade
1/4 C grenadine
additional thyme springs for garnish

Put sugar, thyme and water into a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved (about 2 minutes). Let cool.
In a pitcher with ice, mix bourbon, pink lemonade and grenadine. Then add the thyme simple syrup to taste (you may end up using all of it).

This recipe is going o be different for everyone. This makes a big batch that can be saved in a pitcher for later. You should mix it depending on your taste and how strong you would like the drink to be. A general rule on a small scale is to start with would be:

1 part bouron
2 parts pink lemonade
3/4 part thyme syrup
just a dash grenadine

Garnish with a sprig of thyme. Cheers!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Meat, Meet Cheese

Meat and cheese plate: the carb-counter's dream meal.

We tend to throw together meat and cheese plates on lazy Sunday nights when we would rather picnic on our coffee table than spend an hour or two cooking in the kitchen. These "lazy Sunday dinners" tend to turn into a feast for a king by the time I get finished plating everything I thought we would need for a successful nosh.

Our honeymoon was to Iceland, and I am going to be honest here: I had not heard good things about the food. With a national dish such as putrefied shark and things like puffin, raw whale meat and horse on the menus, I was kind of looking forward to the possibility of actually losing weight while traveling.

I decided I would be adventurous and try some things I might be uncomfortable with. The very first restaurant we went to was a recommendation from someone I stopped in the street. "Do you know of any great little restaurants or cafes to eat lunch around here?", I asked in English without hesitation to a young-ish pair of stylish-looking women (EVERYONE spoke English there). They directed us to a little place that was tucked slightly off the main drag.

We did not know what to make of the menu. First of all, diet coke was "pepsi max"; a quick trial and error session was all it took to figure out that one. We did not really understand what a lot of the things on the menu were, and the servers were not interested in walking us through it. Also, everything was insanely expensive! This was just a regular restaurant, cute but nothing special. The entrees could cost between $35-$50. We settled on splitting what we determined to be a "sampler-style appetizer plate" that was $35.

It turned out to be the most delicious version of a meat and cheese plate I had ever set tongue on. From then on, I knew my waistline and wallet were in trouble on this trip. At least when we asked the random woman in the street what is customary for tipping, she said in a heavy accent, "oh, we are Icelanders...we. don't. tip." I don't know if she was trying to say that we should tip since we were not Icelanders or if she was just so proud of the fact that they do not subject themselves to the custom of tipping, but who could even afford to tip on top of such pricey restaurant bills?

We went on to indulge in other great adventures while in Iceland some of which included other foods like whale sashimi (no wonder we did not see any whales when we went whale watching) and that putrefied shark I was telling you about.

Other adventures were of the outdoor variety like visiting Iceland's many scenic wonders:




Icelandic Horses:


And then there was the city-life. The biggest city was Reykjavik, where more than half of the 300,000 people in the country live. While Reykjavik was by far the biggest city we visited, it was still smaller than 200,000. I believe that is about the amount of people that fit into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium AKA "The Swamp" two times.


Sushi on a conveyor belt:


Some of you may see a meat and cheese plate as a cop out for a recipe, but I really wanted to share the idea since it is just the idea if you want to have dinner at home, but you are in no mood to cook. It has a "home-cooked" vibe without any mess or effort. There is something about plating up everything to create a nice spread that is relaxing and fun. Here are some tips to create a great spread based on my past trial and errors:

*choose 3 meats - one hearty style (i.e. something you might eat on a sandwich like a great roast beef or sliced ham), one sausage type (like a thick summer sausage or salami or chorizo - you could opt for two sausages if the first type of meat sounds boring to you), and one artisan style (like prosciutto or something you might just like to taste).

*Try to get your meats and cheeses from a grocery store with a great deli counter. That way, you can just buy what you need and still have plenty of variety. Or you could just spring for whole packages of everything so you will just have to make the spread again a couple of days later.

*choose three cheeses - one hearty (maybe a tasty cheddar or muenster. In honor of Iceland, we bought havarti cheese which was a staple at any breakfast meal we enjoyed while we were there), one special cheese that has been soaked or smoked or aged, read: hard (like a smoked gouda, manchego cheese is my favorite or one of those delicious cheeses that has been soaked in merlot) and something soft and strong like a goat cheese or blue cheese.

*Throw a baguette or whatever bread you like in the oven on a low setting until the crust is toasted and the inside is warm. Don't slice it. Just let people pull pieces off of it as they go; this way it will stay warm on the inside throughout the meal.

*Nuts are a great addition to the spread. I recommend cashews, spiced almonds, candied walnuts...

*Dried fruit or jam adds a great slightly slightly sweet touch and can be rolled up on a piece of bread with one of the soft cheeses

*some veggies with a dip - something light in case the meal gets to feeling too heavy

*I love grapes with cheese.

*Red wine is a must.

*Lastly, set up somewhere picnic-style, even if you are inside. Light some candles and enjoy!