On March 7, the Capital Weather Gang – the coolest (ha!) gang around – declared winter in DC to be officially over.
The CWG is a really big deal around here. Like when they say tomorrow is a Four Domes day (– that’s four Capitol domes to you, non-DC native) – you KNOW you’re sleeping in late tomorrow, and at the very best, you’ll be “teleworking.” Hello, federal government.
So when they said winter was over, and spring was here, and that there’d be no more snow, and that only sunshine and puppies and rainbows were ahead, we BELIEVED them. The whole CITY believed them. There were discounts at coffee shops and consignment stores to celebrate the arrival of spring.
In other words, I live in Washington, DC, ok? I shouldn’t be waddling to work in my down coat on April 13th. CWG, next time, knock on wood when you make declarative statements like “pronouncing winter over now is really, really safe.”
The only saving grace is that it’s totally acceptable to make really heavy, spicy, ridiculously easy winter curries in our crock pot.
Slow Cooked Chicken Coconut Curry
- 1-2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 can coconut milk (light is fine)
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
- 1 big handful curry powder
- pinch red pepper flakes
- a big pinch salt
- 1 big pinch pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- optional – chopped jalapeno (*note – between the sambal oelek and the red pepper flakes, this dish is one hot wollop of a dish)
- 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
- for serving:
- cooked basmati rice
- chopped cilantro
- coconut flakes
- Put all ingredients from chicken through black pepper in the crock pot and give it a good stir. Cover and cook on low for four hours.
- At the four hour mark, add the bell pepper and cook for about 20 minutes. Add a bit of cornstarch to thicken up the mixture and cook another 10 minutes or so (don’t let your bell peppers get soggy).
- Serve with rice and your desired toppings. Keep some milk/water nearby because it will light your mouth on fire (in a good way).
Plentiful, spicy-ful, ridiculously easy, and definitely good for making you think about warmer climates, where there are no down coats and no domes looming in your future.
Every so often, you need to get fancy. As in: fancy = your highest heels + your reddest lipstick + the expensive bottle of wine you’ve been saving.
Or, when you’re gestating a human, and you want to put on your best lined slippers and your size-up yoga pants…the good news is you can still cook with really fancy ingredients, to make up for the wine you’re missing. I’m talking those things you bought when you went to the specialty kitchen store or spice bazaar and your husband was like, seriously? Do we even have room in the cabinets? When are we going to use these things? And you give him a look that says: this is already done. You know what I’m talking about.
Saffron, fennel seeds, calasparra rice, all in one dish. You can even wear red lipstick.
Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella
- olive oil
- two white or yellow onions, chopped
- 2 bell peppers (I used an orange and a green)
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- small handful fennel seeds
- small handful saffron threads
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 and 1/4 cup calasparra rice (super hard to find – you can substitute another short grain rice like bomba or calrose)
- 1 cup dry sherry or white wine
- bunch parsley, washed and roughly chopped
- small handful smoked paprika
- 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
- other vegetables as you please: grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, etc.
- 1 lemon
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil and then onions + peppers and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. While these cook, pour the veggie stock into a bowl with the saffron and allow that tasty goodness to infuse the broth.
- Add garlic and fennel seeds to the pan, saute for another few minutes, or until onions begin to brown. Turn the heat up and then add a bit more olive oil, add the rice and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the sherry or wine and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates.
- Add salt, pepper, parsley, and smoked paprika – stir and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the stock, turn down the heat to medium again and leave your paella alone. No really. No stirring. Let the rice cook in that beautiful stock until there is just a tiny bit of liquid bubbling on top – about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the artichokes and/or other vegetables into the top of the rice and push them down (again, taking care not to stir the rice). Cook another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the whole thing, in order to let all the liquid absorb.
- Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the lemon all over the paella and scatter with parsley.
This paella gets even better on days 2 + 3 (which is a good news because this is a LOT for two people, even one person who counts as 1.5). Depending on your level of love for artichokes (mine is quite high) I might even suggest doubling up on those. Get really fancy.
Clearly I’m the last person in the world to want or think about dieting, or restricting my eating habits in any way, (we all saw what went on over Valentine’s Day at our house) so I don’t even want to put this label out there. But here goes: this “chicken divan” is paleo.
Let me explain myself for a moment here: this recipe was shared with me by my future SIL, H, who has been on a month-long kick to figure out what has been ailing her stomach. Turns out, it’s probably dairy. Turns out, that really, really stinks. To make up for it, I’m on a mission to consume all the ice cream she can’t. You’re welcome, H. Don’t mention it.
Also: this recipe is actually all sorts of delicious.
- 2 cups raw cashews
- olive oil, ghee or, (gasp) butter
- 1 pound chicken breasts, cubed
- 3-4 heads broccoli, chopped into florets
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 white or yellow onion, diced
- 1-2 cups chicken stock
- salt, pepper
- large handful curry powder
- small handful ground coriander
- Soak your cashews – either by placing them in a bowl of water overnight (which takes forethought and planning, which I didn’t have) or by placing them in a sauce pan with about 3 cups of water, bringing to a boil, and then turning off the heat, leaving them to soak for about an water.
- Heat a deep skillet, add olive oil or butter to the pan. Season your chicken liberally with salt and pepper and then add it to the pan and cook until it turns golden brown. Put the broccoli over the chicken and cover the pan, allowing the steam to cook the broccoli.
- While all that cooks away, drain the cashews and add them to your food processor, along with the garlic, onion, salt, pepper, coriander, and curry. Pulse a few times, and then slowly add the chicken stock, turning the food processor on all the way. Add stock until you achieve your desired consistency.
- Pour the cashew sauce over the chicken and broccoli mixture and give it a good toss, making to sure to coat the whole thing. Give it a moment or two to cook down (the raw garlic, in particular!), and then serve…with couscous.
As you’ll note if you check out the original recipe and what I describe above, I doubled the sauce and the broccoli (not the chicken) and found this is more than enough to feed 2 people, with LOTS of leftovers. We’re making up for Vday, after all. Have no fear though: this is actually really good and makes you feel sort of virtuous at the same time. Pass the couscous, though.
Two things happened last week that could have put a real cramp in our babymoon-style. (Yes, turns out I will do anything to take a vacation, including calling it a babymoon.) In early December, I bought us tickets to St. Lucia. I don’t know what it is about that island, but I have always wanted to go. Maybe because my parents went when I was a kid, and I’ve always thought: man, when I grow up, I’m going to St. Lucia.
- Zika virus. If you haven’t heard of this yet, count yourself lucky, because it means you haven’t been on the phone with cheapcaribbean.com fighting to get a refund. Turns out Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – ripping through the Caribbean right now – that only infects pregnant women. And then causes massive birth defects in babies. Remember: St. Lucia. Babymoon.
- Winter Storm Jonas. If you’re not familiar with DC – the whole city shuts down when we get something vaguely resembling snow. My hometown mayor, Marty Walsh, actually just said “I feel bad,” and then offered to lend my adopted town some snow plows. Seriously.
So, instead, we pulled a last minute audible and spent the last few glorious days basking in the Southern California sunshine, hiking in the desert. (Take that, mosquitoes.) Turns out, Joshua Tree National Park really is all it’s cracked up to be.
Then, we came home. One look at the snow piles in the street & we knew, Marty’s help or not, we won’t be seeing our car until spring. Only Ina could fix this mess.
Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup (adapted from Ina Garten)
- 1 bag dried mushrooms (I had porcini)
- olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3-4 stalks celery, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup pearled barley
- 2 containers mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and white button)
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 6 cups broth (veggie, beef, chicken, whatever you have)
- 10 stalks thyme, tied together if you can
- large handful parsley
- salt, pepper & crushed reds
- 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
- Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour about 2 cups or so boiled water over them, to reconstitute them. Set aside while you prep the veggies and get the rest of the soup prepared.
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onions, carrots, and celery, as well as salt, pepper, and crushed reds, and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and barley and cook, stirring for about two minutes. Add the mixed mushrooms (not the reconstituted dried ones just yet) and the red wine, cook for about five minutes.
- If the dried mushrooms aren’t sliced nicely yet, now’s a good time to strain them (reserving the mushroom water!) and chop them. Otherwise, dump the whole thing (mushrooms + water) into the soup pot. Add the broth, thyme, parsley and and a little more salt and pepper.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.
- At the very end, it’s a little decadent to add a dollop of butter – not necessary, obviously. Discard the thyme, adjust seasoning, and serve with a bit of parsley on top.
Not going to lie, after a few days of In & Out burgers and shakes, my body was grateful for this type of sustenance. Not only good, but good for you. Of course, now that we’ve been home a few days…I could use another babymoon.
We all know that chez nous, we have a strong, strong affinity for the slow cooker. One might even say it’s a deep, passionate love, if that weren’t a somewhat odd thing to say about something you plug into the wall.
However, I do have a bone to pick with some slow cooker recipes. I’m looking at you, Williams Sonoma. As in: the whole POINT of the slow cooker is so you can fix it and forget it and still have a delicious meal at the end of the day. So while I love you, WS, think about this the next time you suggest an ingredient addition at the two hour mark, or a quick pass through the oven at the 90 minute mark, or removing the meat and adding some separately cooked vegetables about 3 hours in. Just, no. No one has time for that. If they did, they’d be actively cooking, and not plugging their dinner into the wall.
Now that the rant section is over, let’s get on with the rave section. As in this pork recipe. Adapted from WS, this is a (really) good one, folks. And it’s a (mostly) fix-it-and-forget-it situation.
Slow Cooked Pork with Spicy Squash
for the pork
- large (2-3 pounds) pork tenderloin
- salt, pepper
- olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- big splash white wine or sherry
- about 1/2 cup chicken stock
for the squash
- 1 package pre-cut butternut squash
- olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red peppers
- asian-lime vinaigrette:
- olive oil (about 2 TBs)
- soy sauce (about 2TBs)
- juice from 1 lime
- sherry or red wine vinegar (about 2 Tsp.)
- pinch sugar
- salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
- Sriracha (about 1 TB)
- big handful basil, chopped
- big handful cilantro, chopped
- Season the pork with salt and pepper and then sear each side in olive oil, over medium-high heat, in a large saute pan. (This is important for flavor.) Transfer to the slow cooker.
- In the saute pan, add the onions and let them cook down a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic when the onions are nice and soft and cook about a minute or two; add the wine/sherry. Scrape up the nice brown bits, add the stock, cook it off for about a minute and then add to the slow cooker, over the pork. Cover and cook on low about 6-7 hours (Note: if you’re using a fattier cut of meat, such as pork butt or shoulder, you could let it roll for longer.)
- About 30 minutes before the pork finishes, get your squash roasting. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. On a large jelly roll pan, spread out the squash, drizzle olive oil, and then season with salt, pepper and crushed reds. Make sure it’s nice and tossed through, and then pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is nice and roasted.
- While the squash and pork finish, make your vinaigrette. Combine all of the ingredients, whisk them together, and set aside. You could also add jalapeno or chilis, if you have them on hand. Reserve a bit of vinaigrette, as well as cilantro/basil for sprinkling on top of the pork/squash.
- Shred the pork in the slow cooker and spoon some of the liquid over it, to keep it moist. Add the vinaigrette to the squash separately, and give it a good toss.
- On a plate, make a bed out of the squash and serve the pork on top. Drizzle with a bit more vinaigrette and top with basil and/or cilantro.
Hello, delicious! The vinaigrette and fresh herbs really make this one pop, so make sure you have that on hand and ready to go for this meal. (After, of course, you enjoy 6-7 hours away from your plugged-in dinner!).