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*slow cooker thai chicken and rice.

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I had every intention of beginning this post with, "A few months ago, I pinned ... " And then I revisited my Pinterest yum board and realized I pinned this recipe a year ago. Which is just proof that I have no concept of time and good lord where did 2013 go?

When I pinned this recipe a year ago, I commented that it would be a great thing to try for my first attempt at slow cooking, should I ever procure a slow cooker.

And then I did procure a slow cooker, a Christmas gift from my dad and his husband, almost a year ago, and I developed an unhealthy fear of ... cooking things slowly.

Partly I think that's because I am not really familiar with slow cooker recipes, so I didn't know how to recognize a good one when I saw one, partly because I'm generally more a fan of recipes that have lots of fun but easy, therapeutic steps, and partly because I have a healthy fear of burning my house down.

Yes I know that you are statistically pretty unlikely to burn down your house with a Crock Pot, but I've always been a little ahead of the curve, accident-prone-wise.

This past Saturday's forecast called for a rainy half day and lots of people in my life who I count on to entertain me being busy or asleep, so I dragged my wilted Friday afternoon self to the grocery store and prepared for my maiden voyage.

Personally, I appreciated the prep work this dish required, even though I understand why the typical Crock Pot dump-and-cook approach is considered extremely valuable among the slow cooker set. What I enjoyed most about my first slow-cooking experience is that I got to do all of the things I like about being in the kitchen—chopping, whisking, mincing, peeling (well, not peeling so much; my knuckle was not the biggest fan of that part; see above re: accident prone)—but not doing the cooking myself made it feel a little bit like a magic trick. Insert ingredients, abracadabra, and presto! Dinner.

I made some adjustments to the original formula—I forgot the coconut milk, so I substituted what I had on hand, which was heavy cream. (Full disclosure: On my tombstone, it shall read, "Here lies K. She forgot one ingredient.) I also don't have access to quick-cooking tapioca, so I subbed cornstarch as a thickener.

I really liked the tenderness of the chicken and the hint of curry and peanut butter, but after five and a half hours of cooking, some of those the flavors needed a little brightness—the lime stands up beautifully (and only improves as leftovers), but a little sriracha and chopped roasted peanuts give the heat and salt a little boost. For color and life, cilantro comes in super handy.

So big thanks to Love at Home for being my inspiration! I made a big meal with very little effort, and I didn't burn down the house. Just right for a rainy couch-bound day spent testing my mental health by watching too many episodes in a row of The Newsroom.

Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Thai Chicken and Rice

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1½ cups sliced peeled carrots (about 3 medium)
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
½ teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 teaspoons red curry paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen peas
Hot cooked jasmine rice
Garnishes: sriracha, chopped roasted peanuts, fresh cilantro leaves 


1. Place first 3 ingredients in a slow cooker; top with chicken. Whisk together chicken broth and next 8 ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour over chicken and vegetables.

2. Cover slow cooker, and cook on low 5&frac12 hours. Stir in cream and peas; let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

3. Serve chicken mixture over hot cooked rice. Garnish, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

 
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*cheesy broccoli and orzo risotto.

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Look, Ma! Veggies!

See way there in the back, where the chicken is all snuggled up under the orzo blanket? Yes, that's leftover makeover right there. But the chicken is really just an understudy in this case—the orzo is the star.

(Note to self: Begin manufacture of orzo blankets ASAP.)

I decided to cook the orzo risotto style, as opposed to in the traditional manner, because I hoped it would help the results be starchier and creamier—I wanted this to be a cheesy orzo but I didn't want to make a béchamel. (The only dairy in my refrigerator was buttermilk, and that seemed like a gamble.)

Spoiler alert: It works! I used the broth I had in the cabinet, which happened to be vegetable broth. Which for no particularly reason I'm going to disclose that I think vegetable broth tastes just dandy but smells really strange. I'll just leave that little fact here for you even though it's of no use to anyone at all.

I could have roasted the broccoli to give it a little oomph in the flavor department, but I rather liked the way this all came together as a one-pot wonder, and letting it cook slowly in the orzo meant that it kept its bright green color and still turned out tender but toothsome.

I think the red onion is a nice pop of color here, but any sort of onion will work just fine; it was just what I had on hand. I added dried crushed red pepper, but for kids or people who prefer a sort of unadulterated mac and cheese, you can leave it out altogether.

When I posted a shot of this on Instagram last night, the response was swift—I think orzo is just one of those universally beloved things. Who could believe it all came together in less than 20 minutes?

Twenty-two minutes if you stop to open a bottle of wine and pour yourself a glass or three. Which I recommend.

Enjoy!

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Cheesy Broccoli and Orzo "Risotto"

6 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ large red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups broccoli florets
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dried crushed red pepper (optional)
1½ cups dried orzo
4 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
¼ cup heavy cream

1. Bring broth to a simmer over medium heat; keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat; add onions and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in broccoli, and sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and red pepper, if desired. Cook 1 minute.

3. Stir orzo into broccoli, and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Ladle about ½ cup broth into pan; cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed. Repeat with remaining broth, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, adding broth ½ cup at a time as needed until orzo is al dente and broccoli is tender.

4. Reduce heat to low, and stir in cheese and cream. Makes 4 servings.

 
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*spicy cabbage stir fry with panko-crusted chicken.

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Remember those panko-crusted cutlets I made yesterday? There were five of them, and Mama don't waste. (Well, technically Mama does waste, but Mama feels really pretty guilty about it.)

So Chicken week continues!

I really love cabbage for its freshness and crunch and that impression it gives of bearing healthful goodness. I also like that it is really hardy and long-lasting in the refrigerator, which means you can add it to all manner of things—toss sautéed cabbage into egg noodles and serve with Swedish meatballs, tumble it into stir-fries, or make a delicious slaw to top any number of sandwiches, from hot dogs and hamburgers to Reubens and Cubans—even though it comes as a head the size of your ... well, head, which means you'll be eating it in things for a while.

That's where the leftover makeover comes in handy.


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The only cure for leftovers, I find, is to turn them into something completely different whenever possible.

Monday's flavors were sort of (sort of) a Southern American homage, so I swung the pendulum all the way around last night and made a stir fry. You may think it is MORE THAN A LITTLE strange to put cole slaw in a stir fry, but it helps to know that I prefer my cole slaw super lightly dressed. It's not as though this ended up being a typical slaw with just a little soy sauce stirred in. (Because that might be weird. Or good. I don't know!)

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I did some Internet research on the best way to reheat fried chicken, and the Internet said ... don't. Pretty universally, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that if it's easy to screw up reheating fried chicken, and fried chicken tastes delicious cold, then what would be the point?

Still, I assumed that this cold chicken would be best with cold noodles, and because I wasn't attempting that, I gambled with 20 minutes at 325, and it was just right—heated through and re-crisped on the outside, but not dry on the inside.

I plucked a couple of jalapeños out of the slaw before heating it in the pan, just so they'd retain their crunch and heat. I also stirred in some sriracha to amp up the flavor it might have lost by being, well, leftovers.

Et voilà! A hot, delicious weeknight meal that didn't require another trip to the store, or a stop for convenience food, that didn't taste anything like the previous night's weeknight meal.

Enjoy!

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Spicy Cabbage Stir Fry with Panko-crusted Chicken

¼ small head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
2 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 chicken cutlets or chicken breast fillets
All-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
Panko
1 cup jasmine rice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried ginger or minced fresh ginger
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Sriracha, to taste
Garnish: chopped green onions

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients; add to cabbage mixture, and stir to combine. Chill until ready to serve.

2. Heat butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until butter melts. Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge chicken in flour; dip in egg, and dredge in panko. Cook chicken in butter mixture 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain.

3. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; stir in rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat; add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute or until fragrant. Stir in cole slaw, and cook until cabbage is tender.

5. Combine soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, and sriracha in a small bowl. Stir cooked rice into cabbage mixture until rice is dry and toasted; stir in soy sauce mixture.

6. Top stir fry with chicken, and garnish, if desired. Makes 4 servings.


 
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*buttermilk biscuit chicken sliders with green slaw.

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Sometimes I think my brain is a little like a front-load washing machine—thoughts just kind of tumble around in there, and I never know which one is going to slam into the door like a red sock.

Which is to say that this was inspired by a lot of little things, something of a stream-of-consciousness dinner-planning process. (Scattered and nonsensical! Who, me?)

I don't cook with meat all that much on the Woodside, mostly because it's hard to use it all up before it goes bad if you're a party of one, and I have unhealthy levels of freezer fear. But occasionally I do have a craving, and I like to indulge it when there's something I know I really want. (In this case, chicken; the package I found at the store had five pieces in it, so look for this to be the week o' the bird.) I cooked it my favorite way, which is to say cutlets crusted in panko and pan-fried, a procedure I return to a lot because I find it to be foolproof.

And SPEAKING OF foolproof, I landed on making biscuits because I am a terrible baker and I know that I need practice/confidence, and I found this recipe over at Tracey's Culinary Adventure, and her biscuits are beautiful. Seriously, go look at them. I'll wait. (It's important to the narrative.)

Anything strike you as unusual, when you compare her biscuits to mine?

Yeah, I don't know what happened. I did follow the recipe to the letter, although when my biscuits neither rose nor browned, I thought maybe I'd just leave them in the oven a little longer.

Which was a mistake when I subsequently forgot they were in there and murdered them.

BUT these were a fail for me before I baked them into little hockey pucks, which returns me to my earlier assertion that I am just really very bad at baking.

Still, I live alone and I'm not made of money, so I shrugged off their density and dryness and soldiered on, with a green slaw (cabbage + green onion + jalapeños) and a nice, ripe tomato slice in honor of the shoulder season for Alabama tomatoes.

The slaw was delicious; I chopped up a second chicken breast and another tomato slice and stirred into the cabbage mixture for an at-work lunch today.

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And this morning, before work, I layered a biscuit with Cheddar and tomato and fried egg and sopped up the yolk with the butter bomb and took a slightly strange-looking photo in the slightly strange-looking light of the Woodside kitchen. If you are a better baker than I (and you are, trust), give this one a go, and maybe tell me where you think I went wrong.

Enjoy!

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Buttermilk Biscuit Chicken Sliders with Green Slaw

¼ small head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
2 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
9 oz (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
¾ cup cold buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
5 chicken cutlets or chicken breast fillets
All-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
Panko
1 tomato, sliced

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients; add to cabbage mixture, and stir to combine. Chill until ready to serve. 

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add butter cubes, and use a pastry cutter (or your fingertips) to cut in the butter until the pieces are no bigger than peas. (The mixture should resemble coarse meal.) Place bowl in refrigerator; chill 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, whisk together the buttermilk and honey in a measuring cup. Add to flour mixture, and stir gently just until  dry ingredients are moistened.

5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently 3 to 4 times to bring it together. (The dough may still be a little crumbly.) Roll dough into a 9- x 5-inch rectangle about ½ inch thick. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter. Roll dough again into a 9- x 5-inch rectangle about ½ inch thick, and again fold it into thirds like a letter. Roll dough out a third time to ¾ inch thick. Using a 1¾-inch round cutter, cut biscuits from dough, and place about 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet.

6. Bake 11 to 12 minutes, or until biscuits rise and tops are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

7. Heat butter and oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until butter melts. Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge chicken in flour; dip in egg, and dredge in panko. Cook chicken in butter mixture 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain.

8. Cut chicken cutlets in half crosswise. Slice biscuits in half horizontally, and layer with chicken, slaw, and tomato slices. Makes 6 to 8 servings. 

 

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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