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food: poulet en papillote

well hello there.  i know.  it’s been a while.
so let us catch up, shall we?

i’d love to account for my absence with fabulous holidays and tales of jet-setting, but i have been pretty homebound… so that’s not it.  and i’d love to say that i’ve been doing super secret recipe tasting for something fun and exciting like a cookbook, but thats not it either.

truth be told i have been on a super healthy life mission and its just plain keeping me busy.
i have classes and meal plans and exercise routines and all that fun stuff and so its taking my free time (otherwise known as blogging time) down to about nothing.  for more proof, see my giant stack of “books to read” that hasn’t been touched since xmas.

anyways.  i’m going to share one of my current favourite mega healthy recipes.

poulet en papillote sounds super fancy pants, but really, it’s just chicken steamed in paper.
this recipe took us minutes to put together, only 25 minutes to bake and was pretty cheap on the ingredients.
combine that with the super healthy factor and you have a winning recipe in my house.

so here’s how it looks as a meal for 2 people.

poulet en papillote

ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (whole – trim ends)
  • 1 carrot (peeled and thin sliced)
  • 1 small jar of artichokes in oil, drained
  • 10-15 kalamata olives (no pits)
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1/2 cup or so of feta (optional)
  • fresh herbs (we used tarragon & basil)

vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (we used myer)
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 & cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit chicken & vegetable pack.
  2. in a small bowl whisk lemon juice, mustard & honey.  slowly drizzle in olive oil to form vinaigrette.
  3. divide asparagus over two papers
  4. season chicken breast with salt & pepper and place on top of asparagus.  drizzle with 1 tbsp of dressing each.
  5. add other vegetables and feta and drizzle with another tbsp of dressing.
  6. fold over paper and crimp edges in a half moon shape to seal completely.
  7. bake for 25 – 28 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

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before (above) and after (below)

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this recipe must be tasted to be believed.
the chicken ends up wonderfully moist and tender – no easy feat for a boneless skinless breast, and it creates a natural juice that is to die for.  if you’re enjoying the bead, i certainly suggest that you get a baguette and sop up the deliciousness inside the pouch.

added bonus – the easiest clean up ever.  no pans, no pots, only a cutting board and your dinner plates.  and we ate out of the paper pouch, so even the plate was a breeze to clean up.

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food: chicken, broccoli & rice casserole

winter is undoubtedly comfort food season… and as i’ve said before, comfort food means something different to everyone, but generally its the foods of our youth.

when i was a kid, my mom used to make this cambell’s soup recipe chicken casserole.  it had a couple cans of cream of whatever was in the cupboard soup, white rice and was topped with a layer of broccoli and chicken breasts laid over the top with a layer of cheddar cheese covering it all.

i love this casserole.
its everything a casserole should be.  it’s easy to make, one dish and relatively balanced…
in fact, i’ve blogged it before – here

but in the last couple weeks, i’ve purged my cupboards of most everything with a long ingredient list… condensed/canned  soup being one of those things.
so when i looked at the giant bunch of broccoli in my fridge and thought of this casserole… i was left with a quandary.  how do you sub for the soup?

i know that those cans of condensed soup work in the slow cooker in ways that other ingredients don’t.  if you’ve ever made the mistake of putting milk in a slow cooker, you know what i mean.  it does not work.
anyways, my fear was that a casserole that spends an hour in the oven might suffer from a similar problem… but i decided to live on the edge and just do my best.

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chicken, broccoli & rice casserole

  • 3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts (skin optional)
  • 1 cup of raw rice (i used jasmine)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups broccoli florets – washed & trimmed
  • spices to taste.  i used s&p, chipotle, garlic salt & thyme
  • 1 cup (or more) grated cheese (enough to cover)
  • paprika to top
  1. preheat oven to 350
  2. stir together stock, milk & sour cream.  add seasonings, stir in raw rice.
  3. pour liquid & rice mixture into your casserole dish
  4. arrange broccoli on top
  5. lay chicken breasts over broccoli
  6. cover entire pan with cheese and sprinkle paprika on top.
  7. cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. remove foil and bake for 10 more to brown cheese.  let stand for 5 minutes and serve.

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usually i enjoy this with cheddar, since cheddar and broccoli are bff.  but i didn’t have any, so i used a cheese called reypenaer that i brought back from amsterdam thats kinda like an aged gouda.  it was delightful.

some optional add ins i’ve seen before are diced red peppers or corn… and of course, i add spice, but that wasn’t in the original recipe… but honestly, its a casserole.
there are no rules other than to clean out your fridge.
you could get as fancy or not as you’d like.

food & travel: beaches turks & caicos

caribbean food is some of my absolutely favourite on earth.
it’s spicy and lively.  it’s always prepared with care and love and passion.  it makes the most of the local foods and doesn’t waste anything.  and more than anything, its just so different from the food you get in vancouver.

in canada, if you want good caribbean food, you have to head to toronto.  and indeed, every time i’m in toronto, the first place i hit up for food is a jamaican place.  you simply can’t get that level of authenticity out west.
yes, i have enjoyed many a fine meal at the reef in vancouver… but it’s just not quite the same.  but don’t get me wrong, the reef is a great bandaid for my caribbean food itch.

my absolute dream plate?  jerk chicken or pork… curried goat… conch in some form… rice & peas (that’s rice and beans, but they call beans peas in the caribbean)… and festival.
i am happy to report, i ate this on my very first night in turks.
and there is a picture… but it wasn’t on my camera, so i’m waiting for my friend to email it to me.  so when it comes, i’ll stick it in right here.

the locals in turks like to joke that the only thing that comes from turks is conch.  which is pretty much true.  almost everything is imported except the conch.  it reminded me very much of the bahamas in that respect.

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there’s a LOT of conch in turks.
and i mean… a LOT.

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no no no.  like A LOT!

Caicos Conch Farm

yup.  thats the conch farm.
a few of my coworkers worked there for their sandals foundation project.

conch is a hideously ugly thing in an absolutely beautiful shell.

in terms of taste… well, i like it.
a lot actually.
it’s kind of like a scallop in terms of flavour and in texture it tends to be quite rubbery, so the preparation and proper cutting and cooking is key to its enjoyment.

the first night i had it in a stewed form… the second night in a ceviche type salad (i couldn’t tell if it was pre-cooked, but i think it was) and then on my last night i had a traditional conch chowder that was a delight.

to no one’s surprise, the jerk chicken at beaches was exceptional.
there was a lovely restaurant that had a jerk bbq as part of their lunch buffet.  i ate there twice.  it was amazing.
and the view wasn’t so bad either…

and since that shot above is super washed out, this is the very past that lady’s shoulder.

and now for your epic fail portion of the blog…
i totally took two pictures of my jerk chicken and BOTH of them are blurry.
because i am the worst apparently.  food blogger fail. but here they are anyways.

ya, so basically that was lunch.  a big old slab of jerk chicken fresh off the bbq and smothered with hot jerk sauce… a slice of flank steak marinated in garlic & chili… and a tiny salad so i can technically say i ate something other than just meat.

and all the while, i enjoyed this view from my seat in the restaurant…

ya, i know.  rough life, right?

the only other time i had the presence of mind to take food pictures was our last night at schooners, which was a seafood place right beside the beach.
for my appie i had the seared scallops on a corn puree with a little seaweed salad on top and some sort of preserved fruit…

it was pretty yummy although the scallops were more steamed than seared.  in fact they didn’t have any crust or color to them at all, as you can probably see.

then i had a bowl of the conch chowder… which i didn’t take a picture of because it just looked like a bowl of chowder.  not cream based though, the classic recipe is something like this:

CONCH CHOWDER

INGREDIENTS:

Olive Oil – 2 Tbsp
Conch Meat, chopped – 1 pound
Garlic – 2 Tbsp
Onions, diced ½” – 1 ½ cups
Celery, diced ½” – ½ cup
Tomato paste – 3 Tbsp
Chicken Broth – 1 quart
Thyme, fresh – 2 tsp
Oregano, fresh – 1 tsp
Carrots, diced ½” – ½ cup
Clam juice – 2 cups
Potatoes, diced 1 – ½ cups
Tomatoes, diced 1 – ½ cups
Salt and Pepper to taste

PREPARATION:

Place the oil in a pot and heat until very hot.
Add the conch meat and sear for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the garlic, onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add all the remaining ingredients, mix well and bring to a boil.
Simmer until the potatoes are tender.
Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot with croutons or crackers

and then for my main i had a seafood risotto.
it was ridiculously rich and i’m pretty sure it had oodles of butter, cream & cheese in lieu of actually following a proper risotto method… but hey, what can you do except eat it?

it was really tasty and among my table of 12 people, agreed to be the best main course served up.
but yes, helloooooo richness.

all in all i was pretty happy with the food choices at beaches.  i wish i had more freedom to explore the a la carte restaurants and more time of course, but 3 of our 4 dinners were buffets as part of our evening activities, so we didn’t have much say in those.
the breakfasts were underwhelming, but the all inclusive breakfast buffet never wows me.  the best they had to offer was the omelet station and their chocolate croissants were appropriately sinful.
i was also pleased to see an actual espresso coffee machine in the french village cafe to get my americano in the morning.  they also made a damn fine iced coffee.  and actually the plain regular coffee was quite good too.  jamaican blue mountain coffee is just so delicious.
overall better than the food choices i’ve seen at other all inclusives and i definitely give the thumbs up for incorporating the local cuisine into the offerings.

food: jerk chicken

believe me when i say i’ve eaten some jerk chicken in my time.
i’m a spicy food fiend and i’ve been to jamaica twice.
trust.

this here that i’m about to share is THE BEST jerk chicken i’ve ever had.

it comes from a jamie oliver recipe that my husband saw him cook on tv and he decided to make it for us on monday.
and WOW.

here’s the thing.  i could wax poetic over the deliciousness of this meal, but you’ll either try it for yourself, or you won’t.

and i really suggest you do.

here’s the whole recipe.
we didn’t make the rice & beans or corn, instead we did kale and roasted potatoes & sweet potatoes.

‘Jamie Oliver’s Meals In Minutes’

killer jerk chicken, rice & beans, refreshing chopped salad, chargrilled corn
main courses | serves 4

CHICKEN
• 4 x 180g chicken breasts, skin on
• 1 tablespoon runny honey
• a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
• a few sprigs of fresh coriander

CORN
• 4 large corn on the cob, husks removed

RICE & BEANS
• 2 spring onions
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 250g long-grain rice
• 600ml organic chicken stock
• 1 x 400g carton of black beans

JERK SAUCE
• 4 spring onions
• a small bunch of fresh thyme
• 3 fresh bay leaves
• ground cloves
• ground nutmeg
• ground allspice
• 6 tablespoons golden rum
• 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon runny honey
• 1 Scotch bonnet chilli
• 4 cloves of garlic

SEASONINGS
• olive oil
• extra virgin olive oil
• sea salt & black pepper

SALAD
• 1 red pepper
• 1 red chicory
• 1 cos or romaine lettuce
• 2 limes
• 1/4 of a red onion
• a small bunch of fresh coriander
• 1 punnet of cress

YOGHURT
• 1 x 250g pot of natural yoghurt
• a few sprigs of fresh coriander
• 1 lime

TO SERVE
• cold beer

TO START Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Fill and boil the kettle. Put a large griddle pan and a large saucepan on a high heat. Turn the oven on to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.

CHICKEN Put the chicken breasts on a plastic board and halve each one, leaving them joined at the top of the breast. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then rub all over both sides of the chicken. Put into the hot griddle pan, skin side down, and leave to cook. Clear away the board and wash the knife and your hands.

CORN Put the corn into the saucepan with a good pinch of salt and cover with boiling water. Put the lid on.

JERK SAUCE Trim and roughly chop the onions and put into the liquidizer with the leaves from most of the bunch of thyme, 3 bay leaves (stalks removed), a large pinch each of ground cloves, nutmeg and allspice, 6 tablespoons each of rum and vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey and 2 teaspoons of salt. Remove the stalks and seeds from the Scotch bonnet chilli and add the chilli to the liquidizer, then quickly crush in 4 unpeeled cloves of garlic and blitz with the lid on until you have a really smooth paste. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to loosen, if needed.

CHICKEN The undersides should be golden now, so turn the chicken over. Pour the jerk sauce into a snug-fitting baking dish and use tongs to lay the chicken on top, skin side up. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of runny honey and scatter over a few sprigs of rosemary and the remaining thyme sprigs. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 15minutes, or until cooked through. Carefully pour away the oil from the griddle pan and wipe clean with kitchen paper, then put back on a high heat.

RICE & BEANS Put a large wide saucepan with a lid on a medium heat. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and put in the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, a good lug of olive oil and a big pinch of salt & pepper. Stir and let soften for a minute or so, then add the rice and chicken stock. Drain and rinse the beans, then add to the pan. Stir gently. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat. Pop the lid on and leave for 12 minutes.

YOGHURT Tip the yoghurt into a small serving bowl. Finely chop a few sprigs of coriander and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt and a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. Finely grate over the zest of 1/2 the lime and squeeze in the juice. Stir in, then take to the table with the other lime half for squeezing over.

CORN Use tongs to move the corn to the hot griddle pan and drizzle over a little olive oil. Cook and turn frequently until charred. Once ready, put on a platter and take to the table.

SALAD Get a very large board that you’re happy to serve on. Deseed and roughly chop the red pepper. Put the red chicory and cos lettuce on top and keep chopping until everything is fairly fine. Make a well in the centre. Pour in a few lugs of extra virgin olive oil and squeeze in the juice of 2 limes. Finely grate over the red onion quarter, season to taste, then toss everything together. Tear over the coriander, snip over the cress and take to the table.

RICE & BEANS Take the lid off the rice after 12 minutes and give it a stir. All the liquid should have been absorbed. Taste and correct the seasoning if need be, then take to the table.

TO SERVE Take the chicken out of the oven, sprinkle over some coriander leaves and take straight to the table. When serving, spoon over the jerk sauce from the bottom of the baking dish. Crack open a few cold bottles of beer and enjoy.

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food: roast chicken with meyer lemons

the best part of roasting a chicken is how it always looks super impressive, even though it’s like the easiest thing ever to make.
i’m not joking.  you literally give it a little rub down with oil/butter/whatever and salt & pepper it… pop it in the oven, forget about it and when the timer goes; perfection comes out.

just to shake things up a little… and because i have a bazillion meyer lemons, i decided to roast some lemons in with the chicken and potatoes.
it worked magically.

i greased up the chicken, salt & peppered it and stuffed it with a lemon cut in half with the juice squeezed into the cavity.
then i popped it in the oven at 450 for 20 minutes to crisp the outside instantly.

i took it out, turned down the heat to 350 and added the veggies to the pan.  this time it was just potatoes, onions and 2 meyer lemons cut in half.
back into the oven to roast for another hour.  (it was a big chicken)

after the temperature told me it was done (love that meat thermometer) we let it rest.

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here’s a quick shot of the finished product…
don’t worry, something green did make it onto the plate.  we had kale chips as a side dish.
the lemons were really tasty and we squeezed them over the meat as an almost-sauce.  yum yum.

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food: chicken & fennel stew

i’m getting great mileage out of the primal blueprint cookbook.
i must say, their recipes are really good.

when i initially bought it and flipped through, this chicken & fennel stew jumped out at me.
it’s not that different from dishes we usually make… chicken thigh in some sort of vegetable heavy sauce is a pretty normal meal for my husband & me, so this was definitely nothing out of our comfort zone…
nope, it was just pure comfort food.  (see what i did there?  i know, mad writing skills)

anyways, as usual… this recipe met all my criteria for making it.
ingredients i liked, pretty healthy… and stuff that i had on hand.  mostly.
it was also filled with green loveliness.

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so here’s the ingredients:

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped (i used 1/2 a large)
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed (called for 2, but i like garlic)
  • 1 tsp fennel seed, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 2 cups beer or chicken broth (i used beer – harp)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or heavy cream (i used coconut milk)
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley chopped

additions – i added some chili flake and a pinch of salt, since i used beer instead of chicken stock.  and black pepper.  also i had a leek end, so i threw that in too with the vegetables.

first off, brown the chicken thighs on both sides and remove from pan.

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then saute the fennel, onion & mushrooms in the chicken fat.  add a little oil if needed (i use coconut oil).
when they’re getting soft, add beer to pan and bring to a boil.
add saffron and spices.

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add the chicken thighs back into the pan, put the lid on and left cook for 25 minutes or so.
when the chicken is cooked through, remove from pan.
at this point, i put mine on a rack in the oven for a few minutes to crisp the skin back up.
this totally optional but lets face it, no one likes soggy skin.

remove the pan from the heat.
stir in kale, parsley and coconut milk or cream.

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and serve…

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once again, can i mention how much i love my ipad for cooking?
the cover that doubles as a stand is the best idea ever.

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food: adventures in paleo

so there’s something in this whole paleo thing that’s causing me some distress… it’s hummus.
totally not allowed.
i live on hummus.  it’s possible my body is 20% hummus at any given time.
i feel like i belong with adam sandler in “you don’t mess with the zohan”.
seriously, hummus should come out of a fire hose.  (best part of the movie, lol)

no hummus breaks my heart a little.  i know, it seems like a weird thing to be sad about, but it’s actually causing my more distress than giving up bread did.
you should know that i’ve got issues by now, lol.

my paleo comfort food cookbook has a recipe for “paleo hummus” that i thought sounded pretty passable.
so i gave it a whirl.  and here’s my result:

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it looks hummus-esqe.
tastes… like a dip, lol.
besides having no chick peas and eggplant instead, all the other flavours are there…
but it lacks that dense texture that i love.  this is almost fluffy.
but it’s tasty and a keeper.  but it’s not hummus.  just sayin’.

Paleo Hummus

  • 3 small eggplants (or 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400°. Prick the eggplants a few times with a fork and coat them in a bit of olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes (turning every 10 minutes) until they are tender. Cool before proceeding to the next step.

Peel the eggplants and remove the stem. In a food processor, puree the eggplants until smooth. Add in garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, salt & pepper. Puree until combined. While the food processor is running, drizzle in olive oil until combined.

 

since then, i’ve also uncovered a “I can’t believe it’s not hummus” recipe that sounds a little more up my alley…
it uses zucchini and macadamia nuts instead of the eggplant recipe i used… which, by the way, i think is more like a baba ganoush than a hummus, for what its worth.

i’ll probably make that new recipe in the not-so-distant future and will report back…

 

in the meantime, here’s a paleo meal that i made a few days ago and it went over so well with my husband and me, that we’ve made it twice more since, lol.

this, my friends, is pesto chicken thighs, cabbage with bacon and lemon kale.

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now, the lemon kale recipe, you’ve already seen here… and it is seriously already a household favourite.
my greens-hating husband actually made it for himself.  when i wasn’t home.  that’s how good it is.

the cabbage you see is basically a play on my brussel sprouts recipe that i adore.  it’s shamefully easy and works so well with anything in the cabbage family.
you just matchstick a couple pieces of bacon and fry them up… then throw the shredded cabbage or sprouts into the bacon fat and cook it until the desired doneness (we like it with some crunch still), salt & pepper it and throw on some crushed pecans and you’re good to go.

the chicken thighs are also from my paleo book, but super easy.
the big difference is that these are oven roasted on a rack.  which i have never done before.  i’ve always roasted my chicken on a pan, but the rack helps to get the skin extra crispy.
also contributing to the crispy is the fact that i separated the chicken skin from the thigh almost completely… then i stuffed it with garlic, basil & parsley.  and rubbed them down with some olive oil, salt & pepper.
they roasted at 400 for about 35 minutes on the rack and came out golden, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  the key here is good quality bone in skin on chicken thighs.  ours, of course, come from hopcott farms.

i never eat chicken skin… but i ate this.  all of it.
what i hate about chicken skin is that mushy gross jelly-like fat.  this had none, it was all crisped to perfection.  i think the higher heat and the separating it combined with the rack cooking was the magic combination.
so that nugget of information has been filed away for future reference.  also key, is the rub down with oil first.  i know if seems redundant and excessive to rub fat with fat, but if you don’t oil the outside, the fat won’t work how its supposed to.  think of it like basting a turkey.  it doesn’t get crisp and lovely if you don’t pour that fat over it.  so don’t skip that step.  it’s important to the overall loveliness of the dish.

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