Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

chicken dinnerIt’s always good to have a go-to chicken recipe, something that can be prepped quickly and shoved into the oven, something that will cook while you sit and unwind with a glass of wine, possibly watching old episodes of Sherlock or Doctor Who. Possibly. Insert geek love of your choice and swirl, sniff, and sip that lovely liquid while you immerse yourself in someone else’s imagination.

navarro rieslingAs far as the wine goes, you can’t go wrong with a glass of anything Navarro Vineyards and Winery has to offer. It was the very first wine club I ever belonged to, and I will continue to belong until the end of time or they retire, whichever comes first — hopefully, the end of time. Anderson Valley, one of my favorite places in the entire world, one of the places that truly feels like home, is the location of their vineyards. The region grows outstanding Alsace wines, and it’s beautiful, besides. (We belong to three other wine clubs whose homes are in the Anderson Valley. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll see an image of the other wines at some point or another.) The Riesling I paired with the chicken is a dry style and is perfect with the lemon and sage I used to flavor the dish, but it’s wonderful enough to drink alone, staring at Benedict Cumberbatch’s cheekbones or what have you.

Lemon Sage Chicken

1 whole, organic chicken
1 lemon
1 onion
2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon butter
a pinch or two of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place chicken on a cooking rack set into a casserole dish.
Mix the seasonings and butter together. Roll the lemon on the counter, using your hand and a little bit of pressure, until it feels slightly squishy. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice inside the chicken cavity. Rub some of the butter mixture inside the cavity. Carefully loosen the skin on the outside of the chicken, using your fingers to create pockets around the breast and thighs, then rub the rest of the butter mixture under the skin. Rub the outside of the chicken, ridding your fingers of any leftover butter mixture.
Insert the two halves of lemon inside the cavity. Cut onion into quarters and try to fit as much of it in the cavity as possible. Scatter any remaining onion pieces around the chicken, inside the dish.
Cook, breast side down, for an hour and 45 minutes. Flip the bird over and cook another 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and flip chicken back over, breast side down, and let rest for 15 minutes. Carve and serve.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

slow cooker pork shoulderYou’re probably beginning to realize that while I occasionally enjoy creating a complicated meal, my stand-bys are simpler meals that have a few layers of flavor but are easy peasy to make. And I love my slow cooker. I have a small one that’s perfect for smaller meals as well as small roasts — even a chicken.

A couple of days ago, I found a pork shoulder in the freezer (that place is a constant source of surprise for me) and decided it needed to be dinner. After thawing overnight in the fridge, I slow cooked that bad boy until it was a tender, falling-off-the-bone flavor extravaganza and served it with some smashed potatoes.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

One pork shoulder
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of mixed sweet and hot peppers (I had a bag of pre-sliced sweet bells, jalapenos, etc. that were in the freezer. I recommend a 3 to 1 ratio of sweet to hot.)
2 cups sweet cherries

Throw it all in the slow cooker. Set on low, and go to work. It will be cooked and the flavors will be nicely incorporated by the time you get home. Serve with veggies, potatoes, etc. — whatever side speaks to you.

Any leftovers can be turned into pulled pork sandwiches. I used a gluten-free hamburger bun that I toasted on the grill with a little garlic butter before filling. I added a couple of dollops of Larrupin Red Sauce to the pork for a bit more sweetness and heat.

Thai Green Curry

Thai green curryI find curry to be an amazing comfort food. Maybe it’s because of the endorphins released by the spicy heat. Maybe it’s because the flavors meld so beautifully. Whatever the cause, when I’ve had a rough work week, nothing helps me wind down quite as well as a nice bowl of curry and a glass of slightly sweet Riesling.

This is a simple Thai curry recipe that requires a small amount of prep and a bit of waiting, but the sigh you exhale with the first spoonful is worth that bit of work. Bonus, the money you save by making it yourself means that you just might be able to purchase that pair of strappy sandals you’ve been eyeballing. Comfort food + retail therapy = fully recovered!

Thai Green Curry
serves 4

2 cups water
1 cup jasmine rice
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped Galangal (Thai) ginger
2 cups mixed vegetables
pinch of salt
1 block of tofu, cubed
3 Tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 cans of organic coconut milk (Give those cans a good shake before opening them.)
2 Keffir lime leaves if available (We have a local farmer who sells them.)

Put rice and water in a pot over high heat. Once it begins to boil, turn heat down to low and simmer until water cooks off. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside if curry isn’t quite done. It’s rice. You probably know that already, but just in case I have any beginners, that’s how it’s done.

Cook veggies and ginger until they’re just beginning to soften up, toss in tofu and salt, and stir. Pour in the coconut milk, curry paste, and lime leaves. Stir. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lime leaves.

In a nice, deep bowl, shovel in some rice, pour curry over the top, and serve. Take a sip of that slightly sweet Riesling. Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth. Repeat until dinner is finished. Don’t you feel better?

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

roast beef sandwichI work full time, as many of you do, and I’ve found that one of my best friends on a busy day is my slow cooker.

When it’s slow cooking beef, I’ve found another friend — Mr. Sauerkraut.

Mr. Sauerkraut does an awesome job of breaking down a tougher cut of meat during the day and creating a tender, flavorful star for a sandwich.

A couple of days ago, I was poking around in the freezer, trying to find inspiration for dinner. I found a flank steak from my meat CSA. A few days before, I had made a simple meal of sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut and had picked up an extra package of the fermented wonder. (Just like other condiments, I find it’s good to have an extra package of sauerkraut hanging out in the fridge for last-minute meal ideas.)

Knowing that a tender roast beef sandwich was only a crock pot away, I allowed the steak to defrost in the fridge overnight and then tossed it into the slow cooker with the entire package of sauerkraut, turned it onto low, and left for work.

When I got home that evening, I drained the beef in a metal colander while browning a roll of whole wheat French bread on the cast iron skillet. While the bread browned, I put together a simple salad of tender baby greens of chard, kale, and spinach and threw on some grape tomatoes and avocado for good measure.

Once the bread was ready, I smeared a healthy layer of horseradish on the roll, and dinner was served. We were chowing down with a nice barleywine to drink within a half hour of arriving from work. What could be simpler?

Blood Orange Curry Chicken

We have an odd combination when it comes to in-season produce right now. Blood oranges and asparagus are neck and neck in the race for most-local.

This combo was too tempting to pass up — imagine the citrus-sweet flavors with the woody green wonder that is first-of-the-season asparagus. I’m surprised I can hold myself together.

Blood Orange Curry Chicken

1 whole free-range, organic chicken

1 TB curry powder

1 tsp Redmond Season Salt

1 tsp rubbed sage

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ginger

2 small blood oranges, cut in halves

olive oil

Combine curry, season salt, sage, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger in a small bowl. Stir. Loosen the skin above the breast meat. Rub olive oil over and inside the chicken. Rub herb mixture inside the loosened skin, then rub inside cavity and over the outside of the bird. Cut oranges in half. Squeeze juice inside the loosened skin, cavity, and outside of bird then place all four halves inside cavity. Bake at 325 degrees for two and a half hours, breast down. Flip chicken for the last hour of cooking. Take chicken out of the oven and rest.

While chicken is resting, cook asparagus.

Sauteed Asparagus in Blood Orange Reduction

1 bunch fresh asparagus

1 medium blood orange, cut in half

2 TB butter

1 scallion, chopped

1/2 tsp Redmond Season Salt

Saute scallions in 1 TB butter. After one minute, add the juice of half the orange. Stir. Add the asparagus, other TB of butter, and season salt. Saute until asparagus begins to brown then add juice from other half of blood orange. Stir. As soon as the liquid reduces and asparagus begins to caramelize, remove from heat.

Serve chicken and asparagus while they’re hot. Enjoy with a Navarro Sauvignon Blanc. (Can you believe I created this recipe on the fly? Sometimes wandering around the grocery store is all one needs for dinner inspiration.)

Dinner Salad

While we were on vacation a week ago, Charles and I did something that we hadn’t done in years — buy a meal from a fast food joint.

The effects were immediate. We felt bloated, lethargic, not quite right. A few hours later, large, angry pimples had erupted all over my face — something that hadn’t happened since high school. The worst part was that my blood sugar was wonky for most of our vacation and followed into the work week.

What to do? I thought the best option was to make a dinner salad, filled with different colors, textures, and flavors. With assorted spring greens as the base, I layered grape tomatoes, crimini mushrooms, avocado, black olives, garbanzo beans, and a small smattering of sauteed chicken breast.

It was just what we both needed to feel more like ourselves again. It had been so long since we had eaten true junk food, we had forgotten the consequences. The results may have been more pronounced since we usually eat such a clean diet, but it really brought home how important it is to eat as healthy as possible as often as possible. My body thanked me.

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