While I grant that it’s totally odd to be eating heavy slow cooker dishes when the temperature outside is approaching 100 degrees F and every time we step outside I melt into a small puddle that incidentally seems to attract all the mosquitoes in the DMV area, the slow cooker seems to be one of the few ways I actually get dinner to the table these days. Just another reason for my love affair with the crock pot: dinner can basically be done by the time baby goes down for and then wakes up from his first nap. And I can spend the rest of the day feeling like at least I accomplished one thing.
Slow Cooked Coconut Curry Chicken
- 2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
- salt and pepper
- coconut oil
- 2 cans coconut milk
- a big heap fresh basil
- a big handful yellow curry powder
- a handful chili powder
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- a big squeeze chili paste or 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or minced
- to serve:
- cooked rice or barley
- more basil
- sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add a little bit of coconut oil.
- Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Add them to the pan (don’t overcrowd the pan!) and get a nice brown sear on each side. Remove to a plate while you assemble the slow cooker ingredients.
- In the slow cooker, combine coconut milk, basil, about 2 teaspoons salt and a teaspoon pepper, curry powder, and chili powder. Stir to combine and then add the red onions, garlic, and chili paste/jalapeno. Place the seared chicken on top.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours and then remove the chicken; let it cool for a few minutes so you can shred it.
- As chicken cools, add the ginger to the slow cooker. Combine a little bit of cornstarch or flour with about a tablespoon cold water and give it a quick stir – add this to the slow cooker to help thicken the sauce a bit.
- Shred the chicken, removing the bones, and then return it to the crock pot. Cook on low for another ten minutes or so.
- Serve on rice (we used barley – oh so good), topped with cilantro.
Of all the dishes in slow cooker land, this is the one I’ve heard the most rave reviews from my husband about. In fact, I was pretty sure I shouldn’t be posting this recipe, with the 100 degree heat and all, but then Husband asked: “but what if you forget how you made it?!” I won’t, because I basically just adapted to our taste from this fabulous lady, but your wish is my command, honey.
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.
Fun fact about me: in college, when most of my female classmates were dressing as “under-dressed fill-in-the-blank (nouns)” for Halloween, I went as a teenaged boy. A teenaged Newsie, to be precise. Because there’s nothing like a light-hearted song and dance number about ending child labor, right?
On Friday, it took all of 30 minutes to conceive of and execute on this salad (inspired by Cooking Light). Meaning I had plenty of time to drink some vino and get to Newsies the Musical (!!) on time, along with my former roommate, also a former Newsie for Halloween. Word to all my Boston friends: it’s coming (as in the production, not this salad) to your city next.
Greek-ish Barley Salad with Sundried Tomatoes
- grated lemon rind from one small lemon
- juice from one small lemon
- olive oil
- about 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- fresh basil, chopped
- salt, pepper
- 1 cup quick-cooking barley
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- about 10 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 cucumber, peeled and quartered
- about 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes in oil, thinly sliced
- 4 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
- Bring two cups of salted water to a boil, add barley, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed.
- Meanwhile, combine lemon rind through salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to create a nice dressing.
- Add red onion through cucumber to the dressing bowl and toss gently. When the barley finishes, mix that in and add sundried tomatoes with oil, as well as Feta cheese (the heat from the barley combined with the oil and the Feta cheese will create a nice creamy texture).
- This is lovely served both immediately and chilled.
Since the blueberry mint salad extravaganza, I’ve been decimating the Trader Joe’s shelves of quick-cooking farro and barley. It’s just so good, and so easy, and so…tasty, while being healthy. Perfect for seizing the day.
The last couple of days have been both joyful and deeply sad. We celebrated our friends’ marriage over the weekend with a beautiful ceremony in Brooklyn, and today, I turn 31.
We also lost my husband’s grandmother this past weekend. Mimi, as we all called her, has acted as a stand-in grandmother for me over the past decade. She made us hand-knit slippers at Christmas and cooked the best French toast man has ever tasted. She stocked her freezer with Peppermint Patties for the women in the family and her fridge with Yuenglings for the men. She was an amazing mother, grandmother, and all-around person.
Last night, we made this salad, inspired by Cooking Light, as a way to nurture the soul a little bit.
Blueberry Barley and Mint Salad
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup quick-cooking barley
- about 1 cup mint leaves
- about 1/3 cup olive oil
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- salt, pepper
- 1 large cucumber, diced
- 1 1/2 cups blueberries
- about 5 oz arugula
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes (removes some of the sting!)
- 2 oz goat cheese
- Salt the water, add the apple cider vinegar, and bring to a boil. Add barley and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, chop all of your vegetables and place in a large salad bowl with the arugula.
- Add mint, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- Add hot barley to the vegetable mixture, add goat cheese, and toss thoroughly with dressing.
Even if you think this is weird – especially if you think this is weird – give this a try. THe Husband, who doesn’t like blueberries or red onions, (& doesn’t think of salad as a “real” meal), went for seconds. And then brought the rest for lunch.