Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Roasted Greek Chicken with Vegetables

Being able to cook a meal for dinner throughout the week is often challenging for many.  Between work schedules, kid schedules, and everything else we're all expected to do throughout the week, a home-cooked meal is often put aside for anything that can be ready - now!  Unfortunately, Sunday dinner may be the one time throughout the week that families are able to gather together, around the same table, at the same time.  Here is a wonderful option!  Yes, your local grocery store will likely sell those rotisserie chickens, ready to eat..... but, a home-roasted chicken is SO much better!  With the right combination of vegetables added to the pan, you have a complete meal!  I hope this can become one of your family favorites!

Roasted Greek Chicken with Vegetables

You'll need a large roasting pan with the rack.  Preheat oven to 425-degrees and move oven rack to a lower level.

1. In the bottom of the roasting pan add the following vegetables cut into chunks:
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 green pepper
  • 8 oz. white button mushrooms
  • 4 medium red potatoes (I leave the skins on, but you can also peel)
 Add 1 cup chicken stock, 1/2 cup white wine, juice of 1 lemon.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper.
Then, wiggle the rack into the pan.

2. Prep the following vegetables by quartering them, to stuff into the chicken:  
  • 1 celery stalk                                                        
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 lemon
Put these in a small bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper.  Set aside while you get the chicken.

3.  Use a 5-6 lb. whole chicken.  Place chicken in your sink and carefully remove from packaging (safety first so you don't poison yourself with raw chicken juice!).  Roll up your sleeves, open up the chicken, and remove anything inside the cavity, including any large chunks of fat.  Rinse with water.  Place chicken onto the rack in your pan.

4.  Stuff the reserved vegetables into the cavity of the chicken.

5. Liberally drizzle olive oil to coat the skin of the chicken.  Sprinkle with salt/pepper to coat.

6.  Roast at 425-degrees for 1 hour.  Baste with juices from the pan and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.  At this point, check the temperature of the chicken using a meat thermometer.  Chicken is fully cooked at 180-degrees.  You can pull it out of the oven if it's just shy of that (around 170-degrees), tent with foil and wait for temperature to increase since the meat will continue cooking once it's out of the oven.

7. Carve and serve!

Here are my tips 'n tricks:
  • If the chicken is done cooking but the potatoes are not, remove the chicken onto a large cutting board and tent with foil.  Continue roasting vegetables until cooked to your liking.
  • You can tie the legs together using kitchen twine, but I didn't here and it was still fine!
  • You can substitute any of the vegetables - but to keep it an authentic Greek chicken, you must have the potatoes!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pasta Bolognese

Once you try this recipe, I guarantee that it will become your go-to meat sauce for pasta!  Recipes for bolognese can be found in every recipe book and all over the internet.  I took what I liked from each of them, added my own twists and voila - here it is!  Enjoy!!

Bolognese Sauce

Serves 6-8

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and minced
2 celery stalks, minced
1 package of mushrooms (white button or cremini), sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons tomato paste (I love the tubes you can buy now!)
2 lbs ground beef (at least 93% lean)
1 lb mild Italian sausage (buy uncased if you can, otherwise get the links and remove the casings)
1 teaspoon red pepper flake
1/2 cup red wine
1- 16oz can diced tomato
1- 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1- 16oz can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 Tablespoon dried basil 
black pepper

Heat a large dutch oven or sautee pan over medium-high heat with ~3 Tbsp olive oil.  When oil is hot, add onion, celery, carrot and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook another 5 minutes.  When vegetables have softened slightly, add the ground beef and sausage.  Use a wooden spoon to break up meat and cook until meat mixture is browned and fully cooked through.  Drain/spoon out any excess grease.

Once the meat is cooked through, add the tomato paste and stir to fully combine.  Add the red wine and use wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  When the wine has mostly evaporated, add in the canned tomatoes (diced, sauce, crushed), red pepper flakes, and seasonings - oregano, basil, Italian seasoning.  Also add 1 Tablespoon each salt and black pepper.  You can adjust if you need more later on.  

Reduce to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for at least 1 hour.  You will need to check back and stir every 15 minutes or so, adjusting the heat as needed.  The longer this stays on the heat, the more the flavors will come together. 

Serve on top of pasta - rigatoni, orecchiette, penne, cavatappi - something short and lined to hold onto this wonderful sauce.

Now go call your family and friends and invite them over for a great dinner!!!

Here are my tips 'n tricks:
- use fresh basil if you have it - added right before serving
- must top with fresh grated parmesan or your favorite cheese!
- feel free to adjust seasonings to those you have in your pantry - just keep with that Italian seasoning theme
- this is great as leftovers - you can make it a day ahead and reheat on the stovetop; just add a splash of chicken stock so it doesn't stick to the pan
- If you do make the bolognese ahead of time, do NOT make the pasta and combine ahead of time.  Pasta will get too mushy and overcooked.  Always keep separate and make pasta fresh as needed!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

Football season and colder weather - what could bring them closer together than some great chili?!  A great wintertime meal!  Here's an alternative to the traditional recipes, and I promise that you won't miss the meat!

Vegetarian Chili

Recipe taken from Rachael Ray and slightly modified:


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow skinned onion, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 bottle pale beer or 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 (32- ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 (14-ounce) can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne hot pepper sauce, several drops
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 (14-ounce) can vegetarian refried beans
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn



Over moderate heat, add oil to a deep pot and combine onion, peppers, and garlic. Saute for 5-10 minutes to soften vegetables. Deglaze pan with beer or broth.  Add tomatoes, black beans, red kidney beans, and stir to combine. 

Season chili with cumin, chili powder, hot sauce, and salt. Lower heat to medium-low and bring to a low simmer for about 30 minutes.  Thicken chili by stirring in refried beans. Simmer over low heat about 5 to 10 minutes longer.  Add corn and eat through for another 5 minutes.  Serve up bowls of chili and top with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Avgolemono Soup

Avgolemono Soup = better than any antibiotic and more delicious than chicken noodle soup!  This is the perfect pick me up on a cold, wet day! 

If you're wondering what I'm talking about, this is the soup that you have probably enjoyed at your local Greek restaurant.  A favorite of most and a staple from any Greek kitchen.  Now, this is not a quickly prepared weeknight meal (although I offer a shortcut in my tips 'n tricks) but perfect when you have some time on the weekend.  Here's a version of my recipe in which my husband just licked his bowl and had multiple servings.  I hope you enjoy! 

Avgolemono Soup

1 small package bone-in chicken breasts
2 medium onions cut into large chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 stalks of celery, cut into large chunks
6 cups low sodium chicken stock
3 cups water
1/2 cup white wine
6 lemons
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 cup rice
4 large eggs

In a large stockpot, combine onions, carrots, celery, chicken, chicken stock, water, wine, salt and pepper.  Also add the juice of 1 of the lemons, scrape out the seeds and add both juiced lemon halves.  Bring this stock mixture to a boil and continue to boil with the lid on until the chicken is fully cooked ~45 minutes. 
Remove chicken from pot.  (If the broth has significantly evaporated, add a few more cups of water - I needed 3.  Cover and bring back to a boil.).  Taste the broth and season for salt/pepper as needed.  Add 1 cup rice, cover and continue to boil until rice is completely cooked, about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, remove skin and bones from chicken and cut into small pieces.  Separate 4 large eggs, putting whites into a large mixing bowl and keeping 2 yolks in a separate bowl.  Juice the remaining 5 lemons into a small measuring cup.  You should have about 1/2 cup lemon juice. 
When the rice is cooked, using a hand mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks start to form (~2 minutes).  Add in the egg yolks one at a time and mix completely.  Slowly stream in the lemon juice.  At this point, you should have a frothy, pale yellow mixture.
Using a large spoon or ladle, slowly add the hot broth into the egg/lemon mixture while mixing continuously.  Continue adding the hot broth until the egg/lemon mixture begins to warm up.  When warmed, add the egg/lemon mixture into the stock pot with the remaining broth.  Stir to fully incorporate.  Add the diced chicken into the soup and heat on low until chicken is warmed.  By the time you summon your troops and get down some bowls, you should be ready to serve and eat!

Here are some tips 'n tricks:
- In a pinch, you can use just the boxed chicken stock and roast your chicken separately.  I promise though, the flavor will not be as intense.
- You can substitute a small whole chicken, but do not use boneless chicken pieces.
- You'll need to use regular, long grain white rice or orzo. Don't use brown rice here.
- Be careful when tempering the egg/lemon mixture with the hot broth.  If you add the hot broth too quickly you'll end up with scrambled eggs and will have to start over!
- If you're not a fan of the egg/lemon sauce, you can use the same initial steps to make the broth and add noodles instead of rice to make chicken noodle soup.
- My husband's family also makes a version where instead of chicken pieces, you add small meatballs made from ground beef, rice and parsley.  Boil in the chicken broth until the meatballs are fully cooked ~30-40 minutes.  No need to add additional rice.  Make the same egg/lemon mixture as above.  He usually asks for this for his birthday gift :)
- If you have leftovers and the soup is too thick the next day, just add a bit of water to pot as you reheat and it'll be just fine.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

In honor of Halloween, here are some of my new favorite pumpkin items!

Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale

a great alternative for those of us who don't like pumpkin pie

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancake & Waffle Mix - YUM!!