Couscous Stuffed Peppers

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I make stuffed peppers often, especially during the winter, and have always used quinoa instead of the more traditional rice. But recently I replaced the quinoa with couscous and think we have a new favorite.  I also added a can of chickpeas and some mint, so this new recipe has an almost-Morrocan flavor.

As healthy as quinoa is, couscous – tiny pearls of pasta that look like quinoa – tastes so much better.

– Catherine

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Couscous Stuffed Peppers

1 lb ground meat (I used ground chicken, but beef or turkey would be just as good.)

2 cups cooked couscous

2 cups crushed tomatoes or good (no sugar, just real ingredients) jarred marinara sauce

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup feta cheese

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Sauté onion until soft, about three minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for one minute more, until fragrant.  Add chicken and cook until no pink remains, about 8 minutes.  Add Worcestershire sauce, crushed tomatoes (or marinara sauce), chickpeas and couscous and combine until heated throughout.  When the mixture is hot, add most of the herbs and half of the feta cheese and spoon into hollowed-out peppers in an oven-safe dish.  Top with the remaining herbs, feta and pine nuts and bake at 375° for 30-45 minutes, or until the tops begin to brown.

Wing Tips. You don’t wear ’em, you eat ’em!

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Did you read the 2013 Wing Report issued by the National Chicken Council?  They put to rest the rumors that there would be a chicken wing shortage this year but also reported some startling facts, like, did you know that the price for chicken wings is at an all time high?  And, that the chicken wing is now the most expensive part of the bird?  Inviting the crew over for a platter of wings seems a little extravagant now, doesn’t it?  You don’t want your friends to think you’re putting on airs by serving a bucket of wings.  Maybe filet would be better.

Keeping in mind the high price of this party food, it would make sense to use every part of the wing and ignore recipe instructions that say “throw away the tips”.   It turns out that most of the American wing tips, or flappers as they are called in the industry, are sent to Asian countries.  This article, In Praise of Wing Tips, by Paul Lucas for Saveur magazine makes these little extra bits sound really good.  We gave it a try and they weren’t bad.  My husband said it reminded him of  pork rinds.  It’s like a little chicken skin lollipop.  And that is a real thing in fancy restaurants now.  At Yusho in Chicago an order of chicken skin goes for $4.50.

Give it a try.   It’s not going to fill you up, it’s more of a bar snack.  They are easy to make and will make you feel good that you aren’t throwing away food that people in China would be happy to have.

-Andra

Roast Flappers

Preheat oven to 425°.  Place wing tips on a rimmed baking sheet.  Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, turning over halfway through baking.  Serve.

They’re better #naked

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Chicken wings.  What did you think I meant?  We’ve got ourselves a real marketing team now.  Her name is Ashley and she’s wicked smaht.  (She is the author of another great blog you should check out called, acuteredhead.)  Luckily for us, she is a marketing and research expert, that also happens to be my sister-in-law.   She has graciously offered to help us grow our little blog.  Otherwise, we would still be floundering in the sea of  “The Intranet” and “The Google”.  Among other things, she taught us the value of the hashtag.   Imagine what that title, #naked, has done for our readership.  Look for our next post, titled  “#blowjob:  Easter decorating starts here”.

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Back to the chicken wings.  Again, while Catherine was here, (yes,we barely came up to breathe), we made chicken wings for the playoff game. (The outcome has left us with nothing to do on Sunday except to eat chicken wings, naked.)   We like Buffalo style wings but as much as we like butter, we are a little turned off by the amount of fat and calories this adds to food that comes prepackaged with it’s own source of delicious fat.  What we were after was a Thai curry chicken wing.  We  roasted the wings with nothing more than salt and pepper sprinkled over them at about 425° for 1 hour, or until they were golden brown and crispy.  Then we pulled them out and tossed them with Thai red curry paste that we had mixed with a little fish sauce and lime juice.  They were good, but not great.

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What was great though, were the wings with nothing on them except for their golden brown salty and peppery flesh.  Naked is the way to go.  If you are still looking for extra flavor profiles, set up a series of dipping bowls that the wings can be dipped in.  You get the best of all worlds with no soggy skin.   Soggy skin isn’t sexy and as we all know, #sex sells.

-Andra

Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings

4 pounds of chicken wings, drumettes, flats and wing tips, separated.  Save wing tips for another recipe.

Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 425°.

Spread chicken wings on a metal, high sided baking sheet so that none of the wings are touching each other.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Bake for 1 hour or until the wings are golden brown and crispy.  Serve alone or with sauces to dip into.

Secret Sauce – I’m sorry.  I can’t give you a recipe for the Secret Sauce.  You can read why, here.

Thai Green Curry Sauce

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste

1 tablespoon grated ginger (we like a lot of ginger.  Adjust according to taste)

Heat coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in curry paste and ginger and heat until curry paste is incorporated and the mixture smells fragrant.

Hoisin Sauce

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar

a few drops of sesame oil

2-3 tablespoons of water

Combine all ingredients and adjust according to your taste.

Buffalo sauce 

1/4 cup melted butter

1/4 cup Texas Pete

Mix until well combined.

“Sipping Chicken Soup with Rice”

Chicken Soup January

In January it’s so nice, 

While slipping on the sliding ice,

To sip hot chicken soup with rice.

Sipping once,

sipping twice, 

Sipping chicken soup with rice.
                                        -Maurice Sendak

Make this soup and chant this poem while you enjoy.   Every month, my son’s first grade class acts out the poems from this very fun book, Chicken Soup with Rice  A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak.   The first time I made this recipe, his 6 year old best friend came over for dinner and we sang this poem as we ate.  Our guest was so polite he told me that he loved mushrooms but I later found out from his mom that he actually wasn’t very fond of them but didn’t want to seem impolite.   With manners like that, he is assured an invitation to dinner any time he wants.

With or without mushrooms, this is a really good recipe.  Don’t leave out the vermouth!  It’s a great weeknight meal but could easily be dressed up for a more elegant affair.  Chanting in a formal dining room though might scare your guests.

-Andra

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Chicken and wild rice soup 

3 tablespoons of butter

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1/3 cup flour

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

6 ounces of baby bella mushrooms, cut into 1/4 inch slices

4 cups cooked wild rice

1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts, roasted and then shredded

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons of vermouth

1- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in the bottom of a large heavy dutch oven.  Add the onion and celery and cook until translucent.  Add the flour and stir to coat.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and cream.  Add the rice, chicken and mushrooms salt and pepper and vermouth and cook over medium heat until the soup has thickened slightly, 20 minutes or so,  but do not boil. Check for seasoning and serve.

Day After Roast Chicken Soup

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This is what we ate the night after roast chicken, which was fortuitous, as we were all sick.  I used to be squeamish about making stock, but once I did it a few times, I realized how much great potential I was throwing away after roast chicken every week.  It’s so easy and so worth the tiniest effort it requires.  I made this stock in the morning and the soup came together so quickly later in the afternoon.

I should probably tell you instead of show you, because pictures of the remnants of stock are gross:

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I added some frozen tortellini and fresh spinach (at the last minute so it wouldn’t completely disintegrate) to the soup and we passed parmesan at the table.

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It was delicious and I think we’re all cured (of our sickness AND our squeamishness).

– Catherine

Chicken Stock

1 chicken carcass, cut up or not

1 onion, peeled and quartered

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon peppercorns

4 quarts of water

Add all ingredients to a large stockpot or dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered for two hours or more, skimming the white foam off of the surface occasionally.  Strain through a fine mesh colander and refrigerate overnight.  Remove the fat that accumulates overnight and use right away or freeze for 2 months.  OR, skip this step and use the broth right away for soup, like I did.

Day After Roast Chicken Soup

1 onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, chopped

2 carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)

2 quarts chicken stock

2 cups frozen cheese tortellini

2 cups fresh spinach

Freshly grated parmesan

Heat two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven.  Sauté onion until translucent, just under five minutes.  Add garlic, carrots, celery and thyme and continue to cook until vegetables soften slightly.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  When ready to serve, add frozen tortellini until just cooked (about 3 minutes).  When pasta is cooked, add the spinach until just wilted.  Serve with grated parmesan.

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