Cilantro Citrus Chicken and Rice

Last weekend I went through my cookbook and made a list of recipes to make this month, with an accompanying list of ingredients that became my shopping list. When I make lunch each day, I remind myself to get meat out of the freezer to thaw for dinner at the same time. After picking which meat I’m in the mood for, choosing from a handful of recipes makes dinner less overwhelming. Planning makes dinner prep much easier, and leads to much more cohesive meals, like this one: Cilantro Citrus Chicken with Cilantro Citrus Rice and Spicy Chili Cooked Carrots.

Cilantro Citrus Chicken with Cilantro Citrus Rice and Spicy Chili Carrots

Today I chose chicken, and my fiance chose Cilantro Citrus Chicken from the list of chicken recipes. I originally clipped this recipe from Cooking Light, and it called for 12 8-oz bone-in chicken breasts. I cut the rest of the recipe in half for nearly 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts, and it ended up being nearly perfect. I’d say these amounts I used are spot-on for about a pound of chicken.

Cilantro Citrus Chicken Recipe

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb chicken
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

The original recipe calls for the first 7 ingredients to be mixed in a food processor before adding with the chicken to marinade for an hour. I just add the ingredients straight into a marinading dish with the chicken, adding a few tablespoons of pineapple juice I had on hand and subbing fresh parsley for dried because that’s what I had. I’d say that blending in a processor is optional.

At this point, I notice a similar recipe on the opposite page in my cookbook, a recipe for Swanson Citrus Chicken & Rice. I decided to incorporate this rice recipe, featuring similar flavors, to serve with my Cilantro Citrus Chicken.

So, after about 45 minutes of marinating the chicken, I began preparing the liquid for the rice. (Keep reading for the rest of the chicken recipe!)

Swanson Citrus Rice

  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz)(1 3/4 cups) Swanson chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 3 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley

For once in my life, I didn’t have any chicken broth on hand (sorry, Swanson). So after adding 1/2 cup orange juice, I filled a 1-cup measure with the rest of the OJ (a few tablespoons), plus the rest of the pineapple juice (a few tablespoons), a few drops of lime juice, and about half a cup of white wine to fill the remainder of the cup. To this I added 3/4 cup of water (so this creative concoction equaled the 1 3/4 cups broth originally called for).

Bring this to a boil, then add one cup of white rice. Reduce heat to simmering, cover, and stir often while cooking for about 18-20 minutes. I add about 3 Tbsp of fresh cilantro instead of parsley to the cooked rice, mimicking the flavors of the chicken to make Cilantro Citrus Rice.

At the same time I start the rice, I heat olive oil in two separate skillets – one for the chicken and one for my mom’s Spicy Chili Cooked Carrots. This one is simple: a few small handfuls of organic baby carrots, enough to cover the bottom of the skillet (makes just enough for 2 servings). Cover and cook a few minutes on med-high until they start sizzling. Add a pad of butter then sprinkle generously with chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic and black pepper. Cover and cook till soft.

Meanwhile, add the salt, cumin and pepper to the chicken. The original recipe called for grilling, but it is January in Cleveland after all, so I pan-fry instead. Add the chicken and some juice to the heated, oiled pan, and cook till browned outside and no longer pink inside. The juices from the marinade brown into a nice sauce, so this alternative to grilling works well.

We both really liked this meal of Cilantro Citrus Chicken with Cilantro Citrus Rice and Spicy Chili Carrots. We’ll definitely make it again! 

Skillet-Grilled Burgers and Oven-Baked Fries

There are fewer flavors better than a warm, juicy burger on soft bread with fresh tomatoes, onions and lettuce from the garden. Of course, when it’s 2 degrees in Cleveland with heavy January snow falling outside, there’s no grilling going on. I can’t wait for warmer weather to enjoy a nice, thick burger, so tonight we warm up inside with skillet-grilled burgers, oven-baked fries and wine while the snow flies outside.

Farm-raised hamburgers with baby swiss cheese, romaine lettuce and jalapenos with a side of french fries

Before I start the burgers, I preheat the oven and slide in a pan of French fries. These will be served with malt vinegar and ketchup. Because what’s a burger without a side of fries? So much for New Year’s resolution-inspired salads…I’ve only had one salad so far this year. But then again, this is only my first burger of the year, too, and we’re only a week in.

My hometown butcher packages ground beef in 1-lb. rolls, so I cut a thawed pound in half, set aside half of it for tomorrow, and cut the remainder in half again to make quarter-pound burger patties. I make an indentation in each mound of raw, red meat and pour in a couple teaspoons of locally made Honey Habanero Barbecue Sauce from Maize Valley Winery, which I encountered when I got to write the copy for their new website. The sauce gives the burgers extra moisture and flavor, and even though this one has a bit of a kick to it, it doesn’t make the burgers too spicy.

I also sprinkled several generous shakes of black pepper, sea salt and garlic powder onto each mound of beef. Then (this is the fun part), you mush each patty together in your hands till it’s consistently mixed, then pat it into a ball and flatten to desired size and thickness. Remember to wash your hands after touching raw meat!

Don’t forget to check the fries. Shake them, scoot them around, and turn them over so they cook evenly.

I preheated a ceramic skillet over the stovetop on medium heat. I let the patties sizzle in the skillet for a few minutes, till I could see the bottoms browning and they were firm enough to easily flip over. As soon as I flipped them, my man started preparing slices of onion, lettuce, jalapeno and baby Swiss cheese to top our burgers. When the burgers started to brown on the other side, leaving a thin sliver of red meat in the center, I melted a slice of cheese on each one for a minute before scooping them up out of the heat and into buns.

Farm-raised hamburgers with Maize Valley Honey Habanero Sauce, jalapenos, onion, lettuce and baby Swiss cheese, with a side of French fries.

Farm-raised hamburgers with Maize Valley Honey Habanero Sauce, jalapenos, onion, lettuce and baby Swiss cheese, with a side of French fries.

Between the jalapenos, the Honey Habanero Barbecue Sauce and the crunch of onion, there’s just enough zing in these burgers to warm us up on a cold, snowy night. We washed them down with a glass of Rihannon, a delicious red blend of Petite Sirah, Barbera and Zinfandel that was recently dethroned as our favorite red wine. Rihannon has a vivid bouquet of strawberries and blackberries, with a pronounced nose of jammy fruits. The flavors are dry but smooth and fruity, like a fermented jam that coats your mouth in cherry and berry juice before slowly dissipating into a bright, balanced acidity. It brings a nice sweetness to the heat of the burgers.

A few nights ago – with that salad, I might note – we discovered a new wine that rivals Rihannon for our vote as best red: Los Dos. A Grenache Syrah blend, Los Dos comes on with a comparably jammy bouquet of blackberries and blueberries. It’s fruit-forward from the first sip, smooth and silky on the palate with a well-structured balance of juicy berries and spicy pepper. Here’s a much more sophisticated review of the 2012 Los Dos than I could ever write, from the chairman of The Wine Institute of Las Vegas. For only $8 (compared to $12 for the Rihannon), this is a great value wine that is way too easy to drink!

Burgers, fries and wine (and perhaps a salad if you’re abiding by New Year’s resolutions) can taste just as great in the frigid winter as they do on a warm summer evening.

Summer Squash, Scallops and Rice Pilaf with Balsamic Glaze

Nothing beats homegrown veggies straight out of the garden. Every time I’ve gone home to Indiana this summer, my mom – who inherited an impressive green thumb from her farming father, sends me back to Cleveland with a bounty of fresh produce, grown in the same rich soil my grandpa farmed for 60 years. This time, it was zucchini, yellow summer squash, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Zucchinis are classic – especially in grandma’s famous recipe for rice and zucchini, a common staple at our table growing up.  But some of my fondest zucchini memories have nothing at all to do with eating. See, when zucchinis would overgrow in the garden – sometimes more than a foot long and the circumference of a softball – they’d become too tough to eat. So we got crafty with our food and made Pickle Pigs – imagining the stem as the pig’s nose, and carving white lines into the zucchini’s dark green skin to make a face around it. We’d add little triangular slices of zucchini to resemble ears, and carve stripes, scales and other designs to decorate the body. The most fun was sticking in toothpicks as frail little pig legs, spikes of hair, or even a body full of spines – turning our Pickle Pigs into Pickle Porcupines.
Yes, I play with my food – which led to some experimentation with the yellow summer squash I brought home. Not to be confused with the golden zucchini (it’s OK, I’m a farm girl and I just learned the difference between yellow summer squash and yellow zucchini while writing this post), yellow summer squash joined rice pilaf and scallops in this experimental dish, adding some twists to my grandma’s old zuc & rice recipe. I’m sure grandma and grandma never ate squash this way:
Summer Squash, Scallops & Rice Pilaf with Balsamic Glaze
This is all the creation of my boyfriend/personal chef, who agreed to cook dinner if I washed the dishes. With the rice pilaf (box mix) cooking on the stove, he sliced and sauteed the yellow squash in olive oil over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper as they cooked. When they were cooked soft all the way through, he removed them from the stove top and covered them to stay warm while he moved onto the main attraction: the scallops.
He tossed thawed scallops in the skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter and began to sear them, then poured in enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan. He grated some Parmesan cheese into the skillet – making a mock Alfredo as the liquid began to bubble and cook any fishyness out of the scallops. When they were tender, he drained them, and began plating the plump scallops with the soft squash slices and the fluffy rice pilaf.
Over this, he drizzled a balsamic reduction, which I think gives a very artistic pizzazz to the final plate, and dresses up these summer squash to look like modern art. Bon appetit – I think Grandma would have been proud (as long as I didn’t tell her the rice came from a box).


Butternut Squash, Shrimp, Shallot & Shredded Carrot Soup

It started with a can of Amy’s Organic Butternut Squash Soup.

amys organic butternut squash soup
This creamy, squashy soup inspired a few additions for a little pizzazz, so while it warmed on the stove top, I thawed a dozen frozen cooked shrimp in the sink, then sauteed them in olive oil, adding a couple teaspoons of chopped shallots (about 1/4 of a whole shallot). As these sauteed, I sprinkled with Pampered Chef Red Thai Curry Rub, tumeric, salt and pepper.

I tossed the shrimp and shallots into the soup while it cooked, then peeled one organic carrot into the pot.
Within a few minutes, voila, Butternut Squash, Shrimp, Shallot & Shredded Carrot Soup.

Butternut Squash, Shrimp, Shallot & Shredded Carrot Soup Recipe

This butternut squash shrimp soup cried for some crusty bread to dip, so I made the quickest, laziest substitute for garlic bread ever: One hot dog bun, opened up, slathered with butter, sprinkled with garlic salt and shredded cheese, and popped into a toaster oven until the cheese melted and the bread crusted. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Asian Fruity Fish Salad

We start with two salmon fillets on a foil-lined pan, topped with a few shakes of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and fish oil, with ground garlic, ground ginger, and a fresh grind of black pepper and sea salt. These bake at 350 while we get the rest of the salad ready.

Next, we saute a handful of raw peeled shrimp with fresh minced garlic, fresh minced organic ginger, and mandarin orange juice along with a few slices. This boils until the sauce is thick and the shrimp is pink. We strain out the shrimp and let them cool, adding the liquid mash to the top of the salmon baking in the oven.

The salad is a simple shred of organic green chard topped with: sliced organic celery, sunflower seeds, fresh minced organic ginger, raspberries, blackberries, and mandarin oranges:

Asian Fruity  Fish Salad with berries

It’s topped off with shrimp, a slab of saucy salmon, and a shake of rice wine vinegar to become Asian Fruity Fish Salad:

With (and before, and after) the meal, we shared a bottle of Zin Your Face wine. Of course, a white probably would have been more appropriate, but with an evening rain storm rolling in and Nightmare on Elm Street playing on TV, it felt more like a red wine night. A raspberry-colored wine with a plummy, nutty scent, it comes in jammy and finishes off with spicy tannins and tobacco. Like any good and dangerous wine, it gets tastier the more you drink.

Sweet & Spicy Salmon, Shrimp & Chard

When you forget to thaw any meat before you get hungry, go straight for the seafood. Fish and shrimp are easy to “quick thaw” in a colander under cold running water. Then, they bake and saute quickly. And, for some reason, they seem far fancier than the chicken or pork that usually stocks my freezer and takes hours just to thaw.
But besides the time savings, the health benefits of fish abound. Just 4 oz. of salmon can contain more than 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, which is more than most adult Americans get from their entire diet over several days. Omega-3 fats fight inflammation, cancer, macular degeneration, and even promote cognitive function, youthful-looking skin, and lustrous hair.
A beauty food that gives me less time in the kitchen and more time to strut my stuff? Sold.
So, in the few minutes that the salmon filets and shrimp sit under running water, I start tearing up green Swiss chard, which brings its own punch to the plate. One cup of it, just 35 calories, provides more than 300% of your daily Vitamin K, plus healthy doses of Vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber. .
Meanwhile, my sous chef starts the mashed potatoes. OK, I’ll admit, the instant mix probably isn’t the healthiest way to go about this, but we are making this dish because we wait to the last minute without planning ahead, remember? To the standard instant mix and water, he adds a tablespoon of butter, 4 minced garlic cloves, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper. And, because I love how mashed potatoes taste when served with a steak smothered in sauce, he adds a “tidge” of A1 Steak Sauce.
As soon as the salmon thaws, I sprinkle them with salt, pepper, turmeric, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. While it bakes on tin foil in a 375-degree oven, my sous chef whips up a glaze of maple butter and raspberry preserves – a combo that resembles peanut butter and jelly until he heats and reduces the sweet sauce.
Next, I add the shrimp to a skillet with extra virgin olive oil and douse generously with Tastefully Simple’s Red Thai Curry Rub, cayenne, and a garlic chili grind. At the same time, in the other half of the skillet, I heat the chard in butter. Eventually, this all gets stirred together, coating it all in a spicy heat that will be a delicious complement to the sweet glaze on the salmon. With a nice cut of bitterness from the salty chard and an echo of garlicky heat in the potatoes, this dish came together so stunningly it’s hard to imagine it thrown together last-minute.


Chicken Pear Protein Salad

The latest healthy meal in my recent kick was inspired by, well, the ingredients in the fridge that needed to be used up. When you stock your fridge with fruits and veggies, you get salads packed with anti-oxidants, protein and – most importantly – variety from boring ol’ greens.
You get something like:
Chicken Pear Protein Salad
chicken pear protein salad recipe
  • We start with the leftover Mango Salsa from the Meal of Mangoes, and add a heavy sprinkle of sunflower seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. This goes into half of a red, round bowl.
  • Into the other half of the bowl goes a leafy mix of spinach and kale, both organic, of course.
  • Meanwhile, the chicken breast left over from Enchilada Night grills on the Foreman. Then, sliced, it tops the salad.
  • Meanwhile, one sliced pear with a handful of dried cranberries saute in the skillet with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and wasabi powder. The fruit, along with any remaining ‘warm dressing,’ then top the chicken atop the salad.
  • For a final touch, some sliced scallions top the pears atop the chicken atop the salad. Ta-da.
Of course, variety is the key to any tolerable salad IMHO: fruits and veggies, nuts and berries, greens and reds and yellows. And here, even the cold crunch of chilled veggies contrasts with the warm tenderness of the pears and chicken for a variety of textures and temperatures that almost makes me forget I’m eating a salad at all – and, to me, that’s a good salad.

Enchilada Night

I know enchiladas are not difficult or daunting to prepare by any means, but they do take a whole pan’s worth of commitment to make. I can recall countless times helping my mom throw a pan together to feed the whole family. But, until tonight, I had never created a pan of enchiladas – let alone a complete Mexican meal.
homemade shredded chicken enchiladas  with chicken rice, refried beans and guacamole ethnic mexican recipes
OK, so I just followed the basic recipe on the can of enchilada sauce, and the refried beans and rice came straight from a can and box, respectively. But still – I made a complete Mexican meal on my own.

Easy Shredded Chicken Enchiladas:

  • Grill 2 chicken breasts, totaling about one pound, on the trusty Foreman to peak juiciness. Shred (which can be great angst-relief).
  • Combine the shredded chicken with 3/4 cup of enchilada sauce and a handful or so of shredded mozzarella cheese. (Officially, I think it called for 1 cup.)
  • Spoon this filling into tortilla shells. Tuck in the ends, fold one side of the shell over, and roll the rest of the way closed so the seal is on the bottom of the pan. Oh yeah, we’re using a 13×9 pan, right? And the oven should probably be heating up. (Because I made big fat enchiladas, I stuffed 5 with this filling recipe…which allegedly makes 8-10 regular skinny-chiladas.)
  • Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over your enchiladas, no matter how fat or skinny they are, and sprinkle with another half cup (or smaller handful) of shredded cheese.

Accompanied by:
  • Rice-a-Roni chicken rice (how’s that for authentic?)
  • Refried Beans
  • Guacamole made fresh in the Nutri-Bullet with organic avocados, cilantro, onion, garlic and green chili

Meal of Mangoes

The Appetizer:
(Or, since it came several hours before the rest of the meal, I guess it was practically lunch)
Caprese Salad, featuring fresh sliced mozzarella, homegrown basil
and heirloom tomato, topped with a balsamic reduction.
 easy caprese salad with tomato, mozzarella and basil
Mango Meal:
Yogurt-Crusted Pork Loin with Mango Salsa
Wilted Rainbow Chard with Red Winter Wheat Berries
Coconut Mango Curry SoupYogurt-Crusted Pork Loin with Mango Salsa Wilted Rainbow Chard with Red Winter Wheat Berries Coconut Mango Curry Soup Recipe
Recipes coming…as soon as I remember where I misplaced them…


Turkey Cacciatore Meatballs with Mango Basil Linguine

I never thought I could like ground turkey until I discovered Rachael Ray’s recipe for Turkey Cacciatore Burgers during my summer internship in Vail. I just happened to take my lunch break when 30 Minute Meals aired, and I’d sit in my apartment above the newspaper newsroom overlooking the mountains, eating far less nutritious less than 30-minute meals while taking down her recipes for future reference.
The favorite recipe proved rather flexible this week, too. We’d been wanting to fix stuffed mushroom caps (but I kept forgetting crab as I stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies for juicing) and stuffed peppers (even though I forgot, until now, that we planned that meal to use up the expiring can of Beefaroni in the cupboard, per an old family recipe.) Like I said, the Turkey Cacciatore recipe proved flexible in both cases, plus leftover meatballs for another day.
Here’s the basic recipe, tweaked a tad from Rachael Ray’s original burgers to become…
Turkey Cacciatore Meatballs Recipe
1 1/3 lbs ground turkey
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
the stems of the 6 mushrooms we’ll be stuffing, removed and chopped.
The one thing I clearly remember about the recipe from the TV show is that you combine all the ingredients by hand.
The meat filled 6 large button mushrooms and one large green pepper (de-seeded and cleaned, of course.) There was enough left over for about 6-8 large meatballs. Baked at probably 400 degrees for, maybe, 20 minutes? I don’t remember, just bake it till it’s done.
We had Organic Basil Linguine leftover from Bacon-Infused Seafood Alfredo night, which made the perfect bed for the meatballs, served with a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil, a shake of Parmesan, a snip of fresh basil and splay of fresh sliced mango. Behold, Turkey Cacciatore Meatballs with Mango Basil Linguine:
Welcome to summer, spaghetti and meatballs.