Chicken Tikka Masala from Family Circle Magazine, January 2014


You know that saying, ‘appearances are deceiving’? I love that one. In fact, if I’m entirely honest, I kind of like the shock factor involved when people discover that some of the ‘appearances’ in my life aren’t quite what they seem to be.

For instance, if you were to see Dudette and me together, you’d comment about how much alike we look. We both have lots of thick, dark hair, olive skin and brown eyes. It goes farther than that though. We’re both strong willed and opinionated. You’d look at us and comment on how the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

Except that Dudette’s adopted.

See what I mean? Appearances are deceiving.

I’ve got that on my mind today because of this dish. I already knew that garam masala is used in Indian cooking, so I’ve always assumed that tikka masala was an East Asian dish.  Ready for this one?

It’s British. Seriously. It was created in an Indian restaurant, yeah, but the restaurant was in the United Kingdom. And, the British Foreign Minister actually said that, ‘Chicken Tikka Massala is now a true British national dish.’

See? British.

The Process

No matter where tikka masala is from, I love it. I adore the various spices that make up garam masala and find them more than a little addicting.

In order to speed up the process and keep the time down, Family Circle had me brown the chicken on a pan under the broiler instead of in the skillet in which the sauce was created. Starting the chicken’s cooking process that way may have allowed me to get the sauce going at the same time, but it eliminated the opportunity for a lot of flavor-building that would have come from browning the thighs in the skillet instead.

In any event, I did coat the chicken with the seasoned yogurt, put it on a broiler pan, and broiled it for about 12 minutes.

While that was happening, I made the sauce in a large skillet by sautéing onions, stirring in spices, adding yogurt and cream and tomatoes.  After a few minutes of letting the flavors meld, I added in the chicken, put the lid on and let it all simmer until the meat was cooked through.

The Verdict

I served the chicken with brown and red basmati rice and peas. Dudette, who usually likes rice (and peas), was not a fan of the new variety and it came close to tainting her view of the entire meal. She was able to push past it though, and finally ate the chicken. She did like it, but thought it was a bit too spicy for her (my cayenne pepper is fresh so it could have been that).

Hubby and I loved the tikka masala. Loved, loved, loved.  The flavors are warm and wonderful. I don’t know how else to describe them. It was delicious and hard to stop eating at just one serving.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

I’d definitely sear the chicken pieces in the same large skillet in which I create the sauce, removing them until it’s time to add them back in again. The extra few minutes that it takes is worth having the juices from the chicken and the cooked bits incorporated into the sauce (plus, it saves on clean-up).  I would also use a can of diced tomatoes instead of whole just because I can never break up the whole, peeled tomatoes without making them squirt all over or into small enough bits.

Chicken Tikka Masala from Family Circle Magazine, January 2014
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 2½ teaspoons garam masala
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 8 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1¾ lbs)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole, peeled tomatoes
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup basmati rice, cooked following pkg directions, substituting chicken broth for water
  • Naan (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat broiler to high. Line broiler pan with nonstick foil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine ginger, garam masala, garlic, salt and cayenne. In a large bowl, combine 1 tbsp of the ginger mixture and ½ cup of the yogurt. Add chicken and toss to coat. Place on prepared broiler pan and broil 6 inches from heat source for 6 minutes per side.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes; stir in remaining ginger mixture and cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, cream and remaining ½ cup yogurt. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add chicken to skillet; simmer, covered with lid slightly ajar, for 6 to 8 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees .
  4. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice and, if desired, naan.
Notes
I'd definitely sear the chicken pieces in the same large skillet in which I create the sauce, removing them until it's time to add them back in again. The extra few minutes that it takes is worth having the juices from the chicken and the cooked bits incorporated into the sauce (plus, it saves on clean-up). I would also use a can of diced tomatoes instead of whole just because I can never break up the whole, peeled tomatoes without making them squirt all over or into small enough bits.

 


How about you? I’m sure your appearances are deceiving too. C’mon, shock me.

Chicken Tagine with Olives and Figs from Family Circle Magazine, January 2014

There must be something about mid-January and chicken tagine, because the last time I made a dish like this was just about a year ago. It was Moroccan-Style Tagine Chicken Thighs and we loved it.

Odd when timing works out that way. On January 15 I told you all about that dish. Here we are one day short of the anniversary and with another tagine in the magazines. How cool is that?

This recipe is part of a group of ten chicken recipes that I’ve had trouble deciding between in Family Circle. As the big game approaches, I’ll probably give the Honey Sesame Wings a try. One of these days when Dudette comes home from school, she may find the Popcorn Chicken waiting as her snack. And who knows, with this much time left in the month, there’s a good chance that the Chicken Tikka Masala will end up on the table one of these nights too.

But, for this meal, the echoes of last year’s tagine tickled across my taste buds and I was drawn to the combination of sweet and tart that makes the dish what it is.

The Process

The recipe says that the prep for this takes 20 minutes. It does. There’s a bunch of chopping to do, including an onion, a few cloves of garlic (they get sliced), fresh ginger, and dried figs.  I suggest just roughly chopping the figs so the pieces are a bit bigger and give a good burst of sweetness when bitten into.

Once the chopping is done, all that’s left is to brown the chicken, sauté the aromatics (onion, garlic, ginger and spices), and cook it all together with the chicken broth.

The Verdict

The biggest comment that I received from Hubby and Dudette was that the chicken had no flavor. That seems a bit odd considering everything that went into the dish, doesn’t it?

It’s taken me a while to work it out, but I think the answer to why the chicken was bland lies in the cooking time. The dish I made a year ago was done in the slow cooker. It stayed in there for a full 8 hours. I think tagines aren’t supposed to be quick meals but are made for long and slow simmering so the flavors have time to work their way into the meat entirely. I have a feeling that if this was done again, this time either simmered on the stove for a few hours or, even better, made in a slow cooker, the family’s response would be much, much different.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

I would do step one on the stove, but then I would move everything to my slow cooker and would let the chicken simmer for eight hours.

Chicken Tagine with Olives and Figs from Family Circle Magazine, January 2014
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Moroccan
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large broiler-fryer chicken (about 4 lbs), cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup chopped dried figs
  • ½ cup pitted green cocktail olives
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous, cooked following package directions
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Instructions
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with ¾ tsp of the salt and ¼ tsp of the black pepper. Cook chicken about 5 minutes per side or until browned. Remove to a plate. Add onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and remaining ¼ tsp each salt and black pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add back chicken, skin side up, and spoon some of the onion mixture on top. Add broth and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes over medium heat. Stir in figs, olives and half the lemon wedges; simmer, covered, for an additional 10 minutes or until temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees .
  3. To serve, spoon couscous onto a large serving platter and place chicken over top. Spoon liquid from pot over chicken and garnish with almonds and remaining lemon.
Notes
I would do step one on the stove, but then I would move everything to my slow cooker and would let the chicken simmer for eight hours.

 

I am a huge fan of stewed chicken and believe I will give this recipe a try again. I think the ingredients are spot on for some amazing flavor. I believe the execution didn’t do it justice.

Thai Fish Soup from Family Circle Magazine, January 2014

Cold enough for you? The frigid air coming from Canada seems to be the main topic of conversation these days, and for good reason. Balmy it is not.

Remember, this is me, the one who moved south after the coldest winter the Chicagoland had experienced in, well, forever. It appears that mother nature intends to break that record and every outdoor thermometer in the northern hemisphere this weekend.

On Monday, Minnesota’s children will be home. The governor has already cancelled schools in anticipation of the arctic temperatures and wind chills. Schools in Michigan are considering doing the same thing, monitoring the weather this weekend before deciding if its necessary. Weather.com is calling it ‘life threatening cold’.

And yet, the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers will meet on a literal frozen tundra tomorrow. The wind chill could get down to -51. I don’t care if it is a wildcard game. I think it’s just stupid. And dangerous. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Chicago Bears fan.

You couldn’t pay me to be there. Free hot chocolate and hand warmers definitely ain’t gonna cut it. I’ll be here at home dealing with my own little pocket of chilliness.

Maybe I’ll have some soup.

The Process

Friends, this is the easiest meal ever. It’s also the last in Family Circle’s ‘Healthy Family Dinners’ feature. This is what I did.

I defrosted the curry broth I had made on Sunday when I had the time to prep all the other stuff I used over the course of the week per Family Circle’s instructions.

I defrosted the extra 4 tilapia fillets I had cooked and frozen from Tuesday’s Baked Cilantro Tilapia with Brown Rice and Snow Peas. I also pulled out the containers of mixed vegetables and steamed snow peas from that same meal as well as the brown rice, all food that I made extra of just for this easy meal.

I just heated the broth and dumped stuff in.

The Verdict

Holy freakin’ cow, this was good. I’ve never had Thai Fish Soup before and don’t know why. It’s amazing. It’s one of those dishes that sticks in the back of your mind after eating it and makes you want another bite or two, again and again.

I had Hubby try it without telling him what it was. He loved it. When I mentioned that it was fish soup, he was shocked. He had no idea. The flavors are just so fresh and hearty and soul-warming. This is a perfect arctic freeze soup.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Nothing.

Thai Fish Soup from Family Circle Magazine, January 2014
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 4
Ingredients
Curry Broth
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • ¾ cup light coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 4 defrosted cooked tilapia fillets
  • ¾ cup cooked mixed vegetables
  • ¾ cup steamed snow peas
  • 1½ cups cooked brown rice
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges (optional)
Instructions
  1. For the curry broth, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and saute until softened, 3 minutes. Add garlic, curry and sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, coconut milk, ginger and salt. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat broth over medium heat until warm, about 4 minutes. Stir in tilapia (breaking apart with a spoon), vegetables and snow peas. Heat until warmed through, about 6 minutes.
  3. Microwave rice until warm, 3 minutes; serve on the side or spoon into bowls. Divide soup among bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges, if desired.

 

There you have it. Six amazing, healthy meals that took just a little effort to pull together and just one shopping trip to get it all started. Family Circle, I am mightily impressed. Don’t think I’m done with the magazine yet. The next section has ten ways to cook chicken. The Chicken Tagine with Olives and Figs is looking pretty good to me right now.

Pork and Veggie Burritos from Family Circle Magazine, January 2014

Generally, I am not a big Facebook fan. Heck, now that they’ve gone public and made life harder on us little page owners, allowing minuscule amounts of people to see what we write, I pretty much dislike Facebook quite a bit.

Except. Except when I want to share something with my Mom, who is on it for updates, funny stories and photos regarding Dudette. If I know I’m making her smile 800 miles away, I’ll post the silliness.

Except. Except when a northern clime gets dumped on by a winter storm that just might be named Hercules or Canada sends down a cold front that leaves both Chicagoland and Minneapolis hovering at temperatures with a little dash in front of them. For instance, did you know that the high in Minneapolis on Monday will be -9? MINUS NINE.

This morning I’m sipping my coffee, while comfortably dressed in a turtle neck and sweater. The sun’s just peaking up over the ridge on the other side of our lake and I can see the water rippling. Yes, I said water, not ice.

My sister, who loves the snow and doesn’t get bothered by cold, is the one who lives in Minneapolis. That’s why I keep track of the weather up there. Kudos to her. Seriously.

I can’t handle the stuff. I really, really dislike both (cold and snow, not my sister). That’s why I revel in the Facebook whining so much.

So, to all my Facebook friends who are shoveling their ways out from under Hercules and will never see this because Facebook will only allow my post about it to show up on 28 news feeds, I will eat the leftovers of this dish in your honor. And I’ll snicker while doing it.

The Process

Please realize that the recipe below makes use of extras that I made on Sunday. While it calls for cooked spaghetti squash and roast pork, the seasonings from the Chili-Rubbed Roast Pork are what give the wrap its flavor. If you’re going to make this, make that first.

Because I had already made the squash and pork, the rest was easy. All I had to do was sauté the peppers and onion in a bit of oil, then add sliced pork and stir until warmed. I heated the squash in the microwave, then put the wraps together. It was a 15-minute job.

The Verdict

First, I think it’s debatable whether this is a burrito or fajita. I lean towards fajita. I don’t think that a layer of spaghetti squash on the bottom is enough to send it toward burrito. But that’s not what you care about, is it.

What you care about is the fact that we love, loved, loved, loved, loved this. All three of us. It is a-freakin’-mazing. Really. The rub on the pork was made for this dish. It was so easy to hide the spaghetti squash under the layers that Dudette never even realized that she was eating it. All those vitamins poured into her without a single whine.

As a footnote, because of the sweetness of the peppers and spaghetti squash, squeezing lime juice on the wrap before eating is just about essential as balance.

Pork and Veggie Burritos/Fajitas are a complete success.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Nada.

Pork and Veggie Burritos from Family Circle Magazine, January 2014
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • ¾ red onion, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ pork roast, cut into ½ -inch strips
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • ½ cooked spaghetti squash
  • 4 10-inch multigrain wraps
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • Reduced-fat sour cream (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add red pepper, onion, salt and pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in pork and cilantro and warm through, about 3 minutes.
  2. Using a fork, scrape spaghetti squash into a medium bowl and microwave until warm, about 3 minutes. Warm wraps in microwave for 30 to 45 seconds.
  3. Place one-fourth of squash down center of each wrap. Top with pork-vegetable mixture, wrap and serve with lime wedges and sour cream, if desired.

 

For those who are just chiming in, this is the fifth dish in a series called ‘Healthy Family Dinners’ that I’m making from Family Circle Magazine. Early-made dishes (the Chili-Rubbed Roast Pork with Spaghetti Squash, Lemon-Herb Chicken with Quinoa and Baked Cilantro Tilapia with Brown Rice and Snow Peas) are what create the groundwork for dishes later in the week (Greek Chicken-Quinoa Salad, this one, and the Thai Fish Soup I’ll make tonight). There are tons of little tips and ideas in the magazine that I can’t add here. It’s $1.99. Buy it. Seriously.