Slow Cooker Chicken Masala

Easy Crock Pot Indian Chicken

Adapted from: Real Simple Chicken Tikka Masala

I found this recipe while looking for new and different ways to cook a whole chicken. There are lots of local farms that raise and sell broiler chickens, but  most sell whole birds. Cooking a whole chicken can seem overwhelming if you are used to buying chicken at the grocery, where chicken parts and boneless breasts are the norm. I’ll be writing a post in the coming months showing how easy it is to cut up your own chicken, but for now I’ve adapted this recipe to use whole chicken.

Ingredients:

4-6 pound locally raised whole chicken
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes (or fresh diced tomatoes from the garden)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons garam masala (Indian spice blend)
1.5 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cream (optional)

The beauty of this recipe is how little of your time it takes to get going. You can easily get everything into the crock pot in less than 15 minutes, then let the crock pot do the cooking while you go to work or take the kids to school. Many people put their slow cooker away when spring arrives, but I find that using a crock pot doesn’t heat up the kitchen like the oven can during the heat of summer (this week’s 90 degree days are a perfect time to cook with the crock pot). This is also a great time of year to find fresh, locally raised chickens. Upper Valley-raised frozen chickens are available year-round, but summer and fall are the best seasons to find fresh whole chickens.

chop the onions

Chop onions and garlic. Dice tomatoes if using fresh.

garam

Combine the onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and garam masala in the slow cooker. Stir the ingredients. Salt and pepper the chicken inside and out and place on top of the veggie and spice mix.

ready to cook

Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours depending on the size of the chicken and your slow cooker. Luckily, you can’t overcook the chicken. The worst that can happen is that the meat will start to fall off the bone, but still be heavenly – just be careful and look out for unexpected bones during dinner.

finished

Berry-time Smoothie

The Upper Valley is full of berries in July. Strawberries start the month, raspberry and blackberry season flows into blueberry time. This post is a fun reminder about how quickly and deliciously you can be enjoying fresh grown berries this summer (aside from eating them as you pick!).

Berry smoothies are easy, fast, and healthy – how much more could a busy person want? I picked raspberries and blueberries from our mini fruit patch and wanted to add a little pizzazz to the berries without doing any work…and I remembered how amazingly simple and delicious smoothies are. I put the berries in a blender with yogurt, ice (not necessary if you are using frozen fruit), and a splash of maple syrup, and zip-zip I had a satisfying drink or dessert.

Smoothie ingredients

Since I’m on vacation with family, I needed to make another batch to soothe the restless crowd. This time I added a few springs of mint and kale which took a few seconds longer to blend (not necessary if you have a Bullet, Vitamin, or like appliance), and was an extra-healthy and yummy refreshment.

 

Smoothie

Berry-time Smoothie

1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
6 mint leaves
8-10 ice cubes
1 kale leaf, stem removed (optional)

 

lakeside smoothie

My niece enjoying a smoothie while floating…tough life.

 

Scape Season

When a garlic bulb matures and sends up a stalk for a flower with the goal of reproducing, the flavorful shoot is called the scape. Garlic scapes are abundant this time of year, but have a very short season. So when you’ve had enough of adding them to your stir-fries, a quick way to preserve the scape season is to freeze pureed scapes. The frozen paste can be thawed to make a delicious scape pesto, used as a rub for a roast, or as the base for a sauce for pasta or potatoes. Substituting garlic scape puree for garlic can add a little zing to any dish.

Puree scapes in food processor

Making the puree is super easy. Chop of the flower head from the scapes and puree the stalks in a food processor until smooth. Spoon puree into small to medium size containers. Fill containers to the top because you don’t want any air to cause freezer-burn. Date and freeze.

Last week when I was in a rush to get dinner on the table, I substituted the scape puree for basil pesto on a pizza. I drizzled the pre-cooked pizza crust with olive oil and spread the puree over the crust. Then I added chopped sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese and heated it up for about 10 minutes. Everyone loved the unique flavor combination, and the garlic had enough zip to be interesting.

final scape2

You can take it one step further and make pesto by adding nuts and cheese to the food processor. You can find an Everyday Chef post about Garlic Scape Pesto here.

 

Frozen Meat Primer

A common question I get from customers at farmers’ markets is if I have any meat that is not frozen. They are shopping for that evenings’ meal and don’t have time to thaw it. Occasionally, farmers will have fresh meat for sale, but the majority of locally raised meats are frozen, so knowing techniques for quickly and safely thawing frozen meat can be handy when shopping at your local farmers’ market or farm stand.

 

If time is not an issue, thawing meat in a refrigerator is the best option. Be sure to place the meat in a bowl or pan in case the package leaks during the defrosting process which will help keep the fridge clean and avoid limit the possibility of cross contamination. It is important that you make sure your refrigerator is less than 40 degrees F. The USDA’s Safe Food Handling Fact Sheet has valuable information about food safety including the fact that dangerous food borne bacteria can grow between the temperatures of 40-140 degrees F. It is important to limit the amount of time your thawing meat (any meat or prepared food, really) is in the ‘danger zone’. The refrigerator is the safest method, but in a pinch using a microwave or a cold water bath to speed up the process can work, if done correctly.

frozen chix

 

Cold Water Bath
Submerge your packaged meat in cold water. Unpackaged meat can attract bacteria from the air and absorb too much water, so put the meat in a ziplock bag if needed. Replace the water as it warms (about every 30 minutes) with fresh cold water. This technique will speed up the thawing process significantly.

water chix gallery

Microwave
Using the defrost mode on your microwave is another way to get the meat on the table quickly. When defrosting in a microwave it’s important to cook the meat immediately. The microwave isn’t ideal for defrosting red meats (it negatively affects the quality), but chicken and pork can be ready for cooking in no time using the microwave.

 

Grilling steak

Cooking Frozen Meats
Another option is to skip the thawing process altogether. America’s Test Kitchen  determined that the quality of beef steaks (especially grass-fed beef) improves when cooked while still frozen. For those who like a rare or medium-rare steak, cooking a frozen steak is the way to go.

This cooking technique is courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated chef Dan Souza

  • Heat skillet filled 1/8 inch deep with oil
  • Sear until browned (90 seconds per side)
  • Transfer to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet
  • Cook in 275-degree oven until desired doneness (18 to 20 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak)

Another handy tips when you are have a whole frozen chicken and need to have a meal on the table for dinner is to cook it frozen. It will take 50% more time to cook, but you can roast a whole chicken frozen and have a delicious dinner in a few hours. It is not recommended to cook frozen meats in a slow cooker because of the uncertainly about how long the meat will be in the danger temperature zone.

You can also boil frozen chicken. Boiling a whole frozen chicken has the advantage of giving you delicious chicken stock AND cooked chicken for several days worth of meals.

Thawing Frozen Meat FAQ

Can I refreeze meat that has been frozen and thawed?
Yes! If thawed in a refrigerator and packaged correctly you can refreeze meat that has been previously frozen. This is a great tip when you have a large package of meat and don’t want to cook it all at once. If frozen in an air-tight package there should be no loss of quality.

I just found a frozen chunk of meat at the bottom of my freezer – is it still good?
Hard telling, not knowing… You can find the FDA quidelines for storing foods here. Freezing (below zero) keeps food safe indefinitely, it is the quality that can be affected by length of time in the freezer and the type of packaging. Try to clean out your freezer at least once a year to be sure you use all your frozen goodies while they are still good.

Grill happy

How long is my refrigerator thawed meat good for?
Sorry, there is no one answer to this question. It depends on the type of meat (ground vs. whole, seafood vs. lamb, smoked vs. fresh), the type of packaging (vacuum packaging lasts longer), how long is was fresh before being frozen originally. The best advice is to use common sense, use your nose, and don’t take any chances.

These rules are true for all frozen meats!

Kohlrabi and Apple Coleslaw

KOHLRABI AND APPLE COLESLAW

Between the two – kale and kohlrabi – people sampling our salads seemed to know less about the kohlrabi. The part that is most often eaten, and that is used here, is the swollen stem that loosely resembles a turnip. However, kohlrabi grows above ground rather than under. Its taste is comparable to cabbage and broccoli, but a little more sweet, which is why it pairs well  here with the tartness of apples and tang of the yogurt dressing. This is a great way to change up a traditional summer barbecue dish. I added in a few handfuls of dried cranberries to add some color. Out of the two salads I gave out, this one disappeared the quickest. 

Serves 4   Prep: 15 minutes

  • 1 large kohlrabi or 2 small, peeled
  • 1 large tart apple or 2 small, cored
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • juice of half a lemon, or 2 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Julienne the kohlrabi and apple. You can use a mandoline or do it manually. If doing manually: slice the kohlrabi and the apple thinly, then stack slices and cut into matchsticks. Note: You may want to sprinkle the apple with lemon juice to prevent browning. For the honey yogurt dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, honey, pepper, and salt. Toss in the kohlrabi and apple, and mix well. Let sit 10 minutes before to allow the flavors to mingle.

From shinycooking.com

Really Awesone Black Bean Brownies

Delicious, but healthier, brownies. Gluten-free AND dairy-free. Lots of protein and fiber from the black beans to help prevent the blood sugar spikes that occur with most brownies or sweets in general. No one will know there are black beans hidden in these farm-to-school favorite treats!

Puree together in a food processor, blender, or immersion blender:

2 cups cooked black beans (unsalted)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup coconut oil

Sift together then blend into wet ingredients:

1/2 cup cacao powder
2 tablespoons tapioca starch or corn starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1.2 teaspoon salt

Mix in:

1/3 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Grease a small pan. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350° F for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool, then cut into squares. Store in a sealed container in fridge or freezer.

 

 

 

Drink Your Greens

I have to admit, as much as I love cooking, at just about any time of day, sometimes I don’t do so well in the breakfast department. On mornings when I’m just trying to get out the door and perhaps the kitchen sink is still full of last night’s dishes (and this is more often than not, as I’m not the most efficient dish washer), I’ve resorted to a number of poor choices. Everything from a piece of whatever I’ve baked last – sometimes this isn’t completely terrible (bicottti) other times there’s no hope (cupcakes, pie, cookies) – while some days I just try to fill up on coffee and maybe a spoonful of peanut butter. But continuous consumption of strong, black coffee on an empty stomach will do a number on your digestive tract.

OK, I’m exaggerating a little. I was on a consistent oatmeal run for awhile and on weekends I take the time for eggs or fresh fruit topped pancakes. But for the past couple of weeks or so my breakfasts have consisted of green smoothies.

Before you click away in disgust, bear with me for a minute, especially as I tell you that these fruit and vegetable filled beverages don’t taste anything like spinach. Also of equal importance: they’re filling, as in I can last until lunch without starving.

And unlike some mornings, these drinks provide a healthy source of energy to get me going for the day. If breakfast really is the most important meal, then it makes sense to start off with foods that are actually going to have some nutritional value to offer. It’s also much easier to carry around a smoothie than a bowl or oatmeal, as I’m often walking or driving somewhere.

While a green smoothie isn’t a revolutionary concept, I have enjoyed the enhanced version that Katherine Natalia calls a “green thickie” over at greenthickies.com. Personally, that doesn’t sound like the most appetizing of names, so I’ll just stick with smoothie. But you should really check out the many many smoothie combinations she has posted about, as well as other topics like making your own coconut milk and peanut butter.

Her base recipe – which contains spinach (or any other green you like), also includes grains, nuts/seeds, liquid, bananas and an optional sweetener like dates – is great. It results in a nice blend of flavors and complete proteins. You can then customize with whatever additional flavors you like, as the many suggestions on Natalia’s site suggest.

<!—green smoothie—>

I like that I can quickly make this either in the morning or the night before. The recipe makes two servings, which means I only need to pull out my immersion blender once every other day – saving half of the smoothie in the fridge for the next morning. If you’re still using a traditional blender, that is fine, of course, but I certainly don’t need an extra, multi-pieced dish to wash.

Before I share the recipe, a few thoughts:

    • Frozen berries, if you choose to play around with the recipe, made this really watery. I’d suggest using fresh or well defrosted berries.
    • Surprisingly, I like the taste of the smoothie better with quinoa than oats. I’ve noticed that quinoa also keeps me feeling full longer (perhaps because of the extra protein it contains).<!—quinoa—>
    • Another surprise: Romaine lettuce works really well. Though you miss out on some of the extra nutrients from the spinach. I’m betting kale would be nice too.
    • Give dates a chance. I stocked up on dates awhile ago and then never got around to using them. They are excellent sweeteners, though, in baking as well.
    • Stick with the two bananas. Any less, and the smoothie isn’t all that thick. And I read once that the thicker a beverage is, the more it will tell your mind you’re full. In other words, a thin smoothie may not fill you up as well.

Green Smoothie

  • 2 cups water (or milk or dairy free milk like almond or coconut)
  • 1 cup oats (or grain like quinoa)
  • 2 cups greens
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup dates
  • 1/4 cup seeds or nuts

Blend everything together and enjoy. Then check out greenthickies.com for more ideas. Let me know what you’ve tried and recommend.

Pea Shoots

Have you tried pea shoots? How about sunflower? Shoots are the early growth of the plant at just a few days after sprouting. That’s why you’ll most likely find them out only around this time of year, when farmers are just getting their plants growing. They have tender, sweet leaves and a crunchy stem. And, yup, it’s all edible. What’s really cool about these shoots is that they taste very much like peas and sunflower seeds, but in a fraction of the time it would take for the whole plant to grow. Even better is that they’re super high in nutrients.

So how do you eat them? Easy. On and with anything. Like me, you can stack them on your favorite sandwiches or also like me – with eggs. They’re excellent in a salad or as a salad all their own. Or if you’d like to cook them, try sauteing with garlic and a little soy sauce. A stir fry would be perfect too. However you choose to enjoy them, just make sure you do so soon – they won’t be around for long!

Chard, Beet & Orange Salad

I’m a big fan of salads that aren’t just plain old salads. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, of course. But salads don’t all have to be a big bowl of lettuce. Maybe you can already figure that out from some of the other recipes I’ve posted. Raw or cooked. Hot or cold. Really, a salad can be whatever you throw together and toss with dressing.

chardbeets

Future Chefs Challenge second-place winner Izabela Woolf with her White and Green Goodness salad. (Albert J. Marro / photo)

Earlier this spring, I was a judge in Sodexo’s Future Chef Challenge where Rutland fourth and fifth graders competed with their favorite salad recipes. With tasty combinations like tortellini salad, southwestern salad, Greek salad and Thanksgiving salad, those talented kids proved the point I’m trying to make. You can find an article I wrote about the event about the event in The Rutland Reader.

The combination of grated raw beets, lightly cooked rainbow chard, bright, juicy oranges and tangy balsamic dressing in this salad is refreshing and simple. It’s a good way to get beet detractors to give the vegetable another try. They’ve probably never had them like this – crunchy and raw, so they might be surprised this time around. At least, that was my experience when I served this for my sister – who actually wanted to keep the leftovers after dinner. And at a recent demo at GE, attendees quickly finished up the entire bowl I made for them and I didn’t hear one beet complaint. Woohoo!

On the other hand, the quick cooking down of the chard takes away some of the bitterness people often encounter when trying the green raw. Yet that aspect is no longer an issue here. All around, this salad will change your preconceptions. Give it a try at your next picnic.

  Sauteed Chard and Raw Beet Salad

  • 3-4 medium-sized beets with the leaves
  • 1 large bunch rainbow chard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 medium orange, peeled and segmented

For the dressing:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Peel the beets and either grate them on a box grater or in a food processor. If you’d rather not have your hands stained purple, handle the beets with paper towels or wear gloves. You should have about 2-3 cups grated beets in the end.

Wash the chard. Shake to remove excess water, but no need to dry. Separate the stems and ribs from the leaves either carefully with a knife or by simply tearing by hand. Give the ribs a rough chop. Stack the leaves on top of each other and slice them crosswise into thick ribbons.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stems and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the leaves of the chard and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves have wilted and taste tender. If the leaves still taste bitter, season with additional salt. Transfer the chard to a large bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes.

To make the dressing, combine ingredients in a small jar and shake until thoroughly mixed.

Combine the greens and the shredded beets, and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve, topping each plate with goat cheese, if using, and orange pieces.

This salad will keep refrigerated for up to one week, but wait to dress and top with goat cheese until just before serving.

Adapted from Elizabeth Passarella at The Kitchn

Ramp and Potato Soup

Memorial Day weekend is supposed to be the kick-off of summer. Sun. Gardening. Grilling. Relaxing at the lake.

Yet the weather around here looks cool and rainy. So I might trade in my plans to break out the grill and instead, huddle over a big pot of warm soup – because I will not be turning my heat back on, no matter how cold it might get. It’s almost June!

Depressing, yes. On the other hand, I’m a little excited to make a pot of ramp and potato soup. It’s a variation on leek and potato, but to me, it just has a fresher taste. Despite the weather, it kind of really invokes spring. Though at this point – shouldn’t we be thinking of summer

Hilary Adams and I made a pot of this soup at the Asa Bloomer building in downtown Rutland last week, as the second culinary event in the Real Rutland series. We actually threw in a number of different alliums (onion and garlic family members) in the pot, including garlic greens, yellow onions, shallots, and chives. Then we whipped up a garlic green pesto. Thanks to all who stopped by to talk with us and try these delicious local foods.

Ramp and Potato Soup

Many recipes will call for milk and/or cream as the liquid in a leek and potato soup. This doesn’t really work when you have dairy issues, like me. Of course, you could try a non-dairy milk. Coconut is often a route I take with soup. But I think the potatoes, and addition of a little yogurt, make this creamy enough without the extra fat. But use whichever you prefer. 

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced and washed ramps, or any combination of your favorite alliums
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 large, sweet onion, chopped
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 cups water or broth
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • A small bunch of chives, chopped

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and let sweat, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic, ramps or other alliums, some salt and let cook for another 8-10 minutes. Pour in your liquid of choice, the potatoes, thyme, and a little more salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup until almost smooth. Alternatively, very carefully transfer slightly cooled soup in batches a blender. Stir in the yogurt. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve in bowls, topped with the chives and some crusty bread on the side.

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