Posts tagged “quick dinner

Asian BBQ chicken

Sometimes I pick up gluten-free sauces on a whim. A while back a local grocery store had a bunch of San-J stuff on sale, and I picked up at least one of anything that sounded interesting! A couple of them were pretty easy. A couple I was less sure what to do with. Strangely, the BBQ sauce was one I was less sure what to do with.  I figured it out though! It turned out great!

I decided to make us kind of an Asian BBQ chicken bowl, maybe something along the lines of a San Sai teriyaki bowl, except with some stir fried veggies too.  As part of going for that kind of dish I also decided I would cut the chicken breasts in half so I would have thinner pieces that would cook more quickly. (This also has the nice benefit of making portion sizes a bit more in line with what we should be eating rather than what we CAN eat.)

I thought about marinating the chicken like I did with the sweet and sour chicken, but in this case I decided to just go with a little salt and pepper.

I decided that I would throw the chicken in the grill pan since it works quite nicely when I don’t feel like dragging out the grill and lighting it and waiting. I can just toss it in the oven for a while and get it nice and hot.

I liked the way the veggies came out in the sweet and sour chicken I made earlier, and decided I would do them that way. They also end up reheating better. (They don’t turn into mush.) We also had some jasmine rice, so I thought that would go nicely in our bowls too.DSCF0487

Cut up whatever veggies you want to stir-fry. I always do the vegetables first. I used an onion, a red bell pepper, and a couple of carrots.  I just cut them up into similar sized pieces. This keeps them cooking at about the same rate.

Then I cut the chicken breasts in half so that they would be thin. This would make them cook faster.DSCF0488

Since I had my grill pan in the oven preheating at 350F for about 30 minutes it was nice and hot when I was ready to go.

Start the rice first since it takes the longest to cook! You could use white or brown. If you do make brown rice just remember it takes a little longer to cook.

Next I got the grill pan out of the oven, and set it on a burner. Place the chicken in the pan at 45 degree angle to the direction of the grill. I find that it can be helpful to use a little cooking spray on the food in cases like this. Using tongs gently life a corner of the first piece. If it comes up easily turn it 90 degrees. If it doesn’t, just leave it there a little longer. After you’ve given it a turn, let the chicken sit there for a couple of minutes. This will give you nice grill marks.DSCF0489 Then flip it over, and do pretty much the same thing. Once I had both sides marked I drizzled on a little of the sauce and smeared it around, flipped it over, and put sauce on that side, and then popped the whole thing in the oven.DSCF0493

I had my veggies cut up already so I got a skillet nice and hot with a little bit of oil, and added the veggies to it. I sauted that for a couple of minutes until the carrots got a little tender. The chicken was done. I sliced the chicken into thin pieces across the grain of the breast, and on a bias. This will give you the most tender piece of meat. How tender it is is really your perception of how long the muscle fibers are when you are chewing them. The longer the fibers the more you have to chew them.


This was very tasty, and very easy to do. Also, this was a pretty quick dinner. Next time, I am going to tweak the sauce a bit by adding some Sriracha to it, and might add a little bit more of it.


I Made Coq au Vin on a Tuesday night!!

So, I had some chicken in the fridge that I wanted to do something with. I decided I would make coq au vin. Why not? Right?

Of course right about now you might be thinking, “But that needs to marinate in red wine overnight??!?” And you would be right. So I made kind of a quick and dirty coq au vin.  It had most of the right stuff, and tasted pretty damn good, but it wasn’t quite what you would get from a traditional recipe.  Of course, it took a lot less time too! Total time: under two hours to go to the store to get a few things I needed, wash a few dishes, and get dinner cooked and on a plate! With a traditional recipe you would still be braising your chicken (If you had already marinated it!). I found this on the Epicuirous web site, and figured I’d give it a shot.  I kind of tweaked it a little, but I almost always do that.

4 strips of bacon, cut into lardons or thick strips

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I only had two handy so I went with that, but I had plenty of the sauce left.)

8 oz crimini or button mushrooms quartered

2 medium onions quartered (or you could use small onions like cipollinis or pearls.)

4 cloves garlic minced

1.5 cups dry red wine

1.5 cups chicken stock

Chopped flat leaf parsley

I didn’t thicken this, but I did let it reduce.  You could use a corn starch slurry if you want to thicken the sauce a bit before you serve it. The recipe called for a few tablespoons of AP flour to be whisked in, but that isn’t really helpful in our case.

There are a few steps to this, but it is nothing really complicated.

The first thing to do is heat some oil in a skillet, and add the bacon.  Over medium heat cook the bacon until it is crisp and brown.  Remove it from the pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Sear the chicken on both sides, and remove it. 

Now you can add the mushrooms, onions and garlic to the pan and saute them until they are lightly browned. Now, as you can see in the pictures there is a bit of brown stuff on the bottom of the pan.  That is a good thing, and it is why I didn’t use a non-stick skillet for this. That is fond. What that means is that we have a sauce to make! Deglaze the pan by pouring in part of the wine and scraping the bottom with your spoon or spatula. This will loosen up the bits from the bacon, etc.. Then add the rest of the wine and the stock, and bring it up to a boil.Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, turn down to a simmer and cover it.  Cook until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in chopped parsley, and serve! In this case I served it with some roasted potatoes and asparagus!  Not too bad for a Tuesday night! Oh, and of course it was gluten free.  Like I said you could thicken it with a corn starch slurry, in that case you would want to take the chicken out when you were ready to serve, and whisk it in while the sauce boils.

Quick and Tasty Sauted Pasta!

The other night Amy and I were trying to figure out what to have for dinner.  Neither of us had anything thawed, and didn’t really feel like a big meal, but we both wanted something tasty.  What we did have was a can of chickpeas(for some reason we thought they were actually cannelini beans until she actually got them out of her pantry), some pasta, a couple of roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, half of a red onion, some garlic, a bottle of Pinot Grigio that we only needed part of. This is actually a really simple thing to put together, and will get you a really quick and tasty dinner in under a half hour.

The first thing is to cook the pasta. Obviously, you need to follow the recommendations on the package since gluten-free pastas vary in cooking times. Once it is cooked drain it, and rinse it in cold water to cool it. Toss it in a little olive oil, and set it aside for now.

Next, we’ll make our “sauce.” Dice the tomato. Half inch cubes should be fine. Mince a few cloves of garlic. We used about four, but if you really like garlic use as much as you want. Dice half of a red onion. To that add white wine and olive oil to just cover everything. A fifty-fifty mix will work well, but it doesn’t need to be exact.

Open the can of chickpeas, drain, and rinse them. Get a medium sized skillet hot over medium heat, and add a small amount of oil. When the oil is hot add the chickpeas. Saute them for a minute or so to get them hot. Next, add the tomato mixture (There is no rule saying how much to add so go with what looks good to you.), and keep things moving in the pan. Add the spinach to the pan, and cook until it has wilted.  You may be surprised at how little spinach it looks like once it is wilted! You’ll eventually get it up to a boil. Once the liquid comes up to a boil add the pasta, and saute everything until everything is hot.

Pour into bowls, top with some parmesan or asiago, and enjoy!

Obviously, this kind of thing gives you lots of room to improvise, and make it your own.  In this case, it was  vegan as well as being gluten-free.  Whatever it little category you want to cram it into, it was very tasty, very quick, and very easy!

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-fry with Rice Noodles!

Trips to the grocery store for me tend not to be well planned.  Sometimes I have decided exactly what I want to eat, but a lot of the time I have no idea.  I pick things up, check that they are gluten-free, and they end up in my cart.  This is not the most economical way to shop.  The other day I picked up a box of rice noodles.  This was one of those things I had no immediate plans for, just something I thought might be fun to play with.  A few days later I picked up a few oranges.  That was when things started to come together in my mind.  There is always chicken around in the freezer, and I almost always have ginger, garlic, gluten-free soy sauce, and there is a bottle of rice vinegar in the cabinet.  This is a really quick and easy one, but it is very tasty!

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

a couple of carrots, peeled and sliced thinly

broccoli cut into bite sized pieces

any other veggies you may want to put in, julienned bell pepper, napa cabbage, snow peas, water chestnuts whatever sounds good to you.

Rice noodles (I picked up a box of Thai Kitchen linguini style noodles)


2 TBSP gluten-free soy sauce

1 TBSP rice vinegar (I wouldn’t get seasoned rice vinegar.  It is for sushi rice, and has salt and sugar added.)

zest and juice of one orange

1 TBSP minced fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

1 TBSP honey

1 TBSP sambal oolek

Lets start with the sauce.  First thing, zest your orange.  I just use the smallest side of my box grater, make sure not to go too deep.  There are a lot of ways to juice citrus fruits, but the easiest is to cut them in half (across the segments), and then stick a fork into the fruit, and twist.   You should do this over a bowl so that you can keep any seeds out of your sauce. Then simply combine everything else.  If you want a sauce that will coat everything a little better you can bring it all up to a boil, and then use a cornstarch slurry to thicken it.  I wasn’t all that worried about that.Next we’ll get the noodles ready.  This is really easy.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, and then turn it off.  Drop in the noodles.  They are ready when they are tender.  They probably take 8 to 10 minutes.  Check the package on yours.  Once they are done, drain them, rinse with cold water to cool them, drain them well, and set them aside.


While the noodles are soaking we can prep everything else. First, cut up your veggies.  I like pieces that are kind of medium thin.  My goal is that they are tender but not mushy. The sizes will depend on what you have.  Denser vegetables like carrots would be thinner than a bell pepper. And everything needs to be bite-sized.  Put everything in a bowl, and set aside. Next, cut your chicken.  Obviously you want something that is small enough to cook quickly, but not minced.  I tend to cut a breast in half, and then cut cubes from the halves.  Again the key is bite-sized.  Of course you could also use tofu if you’re looking for a vegetarian option.


Now, everything is prepped, and ready so we can fire up the stove.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat, and add a couple of tablespoons  of oil.  Canola or peanut would be best.  If you want a little bit of sesame oil would be fine, but since it doesn’t have a high smoke point you should use it only as an accent.  Tilt the pan, and if you see ripples in the oil, start adding your chicken gently to the pan.  Your oil is plenty hot, so don’t splash it all over yourself.  Using a silicone spatula keep the chicken moving around the pan until it is mostly cooked.  Add the veggies, and continue cooking. When the veggies are tender add the noodles. Mix everything together, and add the sauce.  Bring the sauce up to a boil.  You’re done!  Enjoy your dinner. This kind of thing gives you lots of flexibility when you’re making dinner, since almost anything you have can be put in. The other great thing is that it is really quick.

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

Tonight I was in the mood for some pasta, and I really didn’t feel like going with the tomato sauce that I normally do.  I did however have lots of interesting stuff in the fridge to play with, heavy cream, asiago, parmesan, broccoli, garlic, some chicken.  I also decided that a little bit of pesto would add a nice bit of extra flavor.

Pesto is a great thing!  It has tons of flavor, and can be added to pasta, tomatoes, potatoes, meats, it can be used as a spread, whatever you want.  It is also very simple to make, and can be kept for quite a while in your freezer! A basic pesto is basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, and olive oil. Need a recipe? If you feel traditional, make it with a mortar and pestle.  Or do what I do, Cuisinart!

2 oz basil leaves

3 tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 clove garlic

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 oz parmesan

olive oil (to the consistency you like) I just kind of eyeball this, but by all means use the recipe above.  It is a great one from the CIA’s Professional Chef.  I used slivered almonds in place of the pine nuts, because they are a lot less expensive, and still give you a nice consistency. I also use some asiago as well as parmesan, just because it gives a nice flavor.

Next I started boiling my water for the pasta.   I also chopped some cooked chicken, cut the broccoli into bite sized pieces, and minced some garlic.   I then heated up my skillet, so that as soon as the pasta was almost ready I could start putting everything together.When I figured I had just a few minutes before the pasta was ready I added some oil, the chicken, broccoli, and garlic to the pan.  As soon as the pasta was ready I drained it, and added it to the skillet.  I mixed everything together, and added about a cup of cream, some parmesan, pesto, and salt and pepper.  I mixed it all together, and added more cheese.  The cheese is really your thickener here, so as it cooks keep an eye on it.  Add more if you need to.  I like lots of cheese in mine!Obviously, the noodles I used were gluten-free.  I had some DeBoles rice penne noodles.  It turned out great, and really didn’t take long at all, probably under 30 minutes total.

Quick pasta dinner that doesn’t come out of a bag!

I keep seeing these ads on TV for some steam in the bag dinner with like pasta and chicken, and veggies.  They have this intro that says something like “who says sauteing, and chopping and peeling at the end of the day is relaxing?”  These commercials bother me, a lot.  Are we that lazy?  Obviously, since I and at least some of you are on gluten-free diets we can’t eat these, but if you are looking for a quick meal like this there is a way to do it.

How many people do you have to feed?  Figure one ounce of pasta per person.  What do you like?  Farfalle? Penne? Whatever.  Cook that according to the directions on the box.  Drain it, and rinse it with cold running water to cool it.  Drain it, put it in a container to store it, toss it with some olive oil,  and put it in the fridge till you need it for later.

At work we make a mix of tomatoes, white wine, fresh basil, olive oil, and garlic.  It’s really simple, and works really well.  Go.  Do that! The easiest way to cut something leafy like the basil is to take the leaves, and kind of roll several of them together.  Then take your knife, and slice through all of them.  This is called chiffonade.  Whatever you feel like is fine.  This is going to be the sauce part of the pasta.

So, now you can pick whatever you feel like having in your pasta.  Chicken?  Peas? Broccoli? Mushrooms?  The sky is pretty much the limit.  The real key is to make sure that whatever it is will cook quickly.  Something like chicken could be cooked ahead, and sliced or cubed so that when you put it in all you have to do is get it hot.  Veggies will mostly go quick, so unless you have something like eggplant that will take some time don’t worry about them.  Just cut them small enough that they are about the same size as everything else.

When it’s dinner time, get a skillet that is big enough to fit all of the stuff that you want to put in there, get it good and hot.  Add some canola oil.  (Now is NOT the time for you to use your nice extra virgin olive oil!  You’ll be wasting it.) Once the oil is hot, add whatever will take the longest.  Since I’m not giving a specific recipe, I can’t help you here.  Once you have in the veggies, and chicken or whatever, and they are getting hot, add the tomato mixture.  Carefully, and remember that you can always add a little more if you want, but its a bit tricky to take it out.   You’ll see the liquid start to boil.  Add the pasta, and toss or stir.  This will get everything coated in your sauce, and heated through.

That’s it!  Put it in your serving bowl or on plates or however you want to eat, and you’re done!  Toss a little cheese on top, and everybody will be thrilled!

Let Them Eat Steak!

Happy belated Bastille Day! A while back I was asked by a friend to teach her to make a steak. I told her that I could make a better steak for less money than a trip to a local steakhouse. I don’t go out for steak, honestly, it is too easy to make at home, and you save a ton of money. I like strip steaks, they have good flavor, and are not too tough. Now, if you were to go to Outback, an 8 ounce strip steak will run you about $15. I bought mine at Schnucks for $4.75. Side dish type things are cheap, so I’m not even going to count them.

Before we even get into cooking a steak lets talk about how you know when it’s done. First, there is the easiest way. Cook the living shit out of the steak. Ok, no. Thermometer? Well, that works, but then you have to remember the temperatures for the different donenesses of your steaks. The other down side of that is that you are poking a hole in your steak for all of the juices to run out of. That is not good. Even if you like your steaks well done they can still be juicy. The best way and the easiest is to poke it with a finger. Here’s how it works, take your left hand and hold your index finger and thumb together, then poke the pad of your thumb with your other index finger. That is rare. Medium rare? Middle finger and thumb. Medium is the ring finger, and well done is(burned) your pinky.

Now, the first thing you want to do is get your steak out of the fridge, and set it on the counter for about a half hour. You probably should also get your oven warmed up (350F), and you could even put your skillet in it to get it hot too . I wanted to have a little pan sauce for fun, and since I had some red wine, onion and chicken stock I was set.

Season your steak on both sides with salt and pepper. That is all you really need. Buy a decent cut of steak, and make it thick enough that you can cook it without worrying that you will end up with a piece of shoe leather. I know a lot of people love fillet mignon, but at $24/pound it is a bit pricey, and what are you getting? Sure, it is tender, but it is also a muscle that doesn’t do much work, and doesn’t really have much in the way of flavor. Sirloin is a bit too fatty for me, but it is a nice cut. Everyone has different preferences, so try a few, and find what you like. I like a strip steak, they taste great, and aren’t super fatty. I keep things simple and stick with salt and pepper, and I don’t see a point in marinades. If I want a steak I want it to taste like a piece of beef, not teriyaki.

So, you’ve got a steak that you seasoned with salt and pepper, and a hot skillet. Get the skillet on the stove top(turn the burner on), and put a small amount of oil in it. Let the oil get hot. When you tilt the skillet you should see ripples in the oil before you even think about putting the steak in there. When you put your steak in the pan, leave it alone. You are NOT sauteing here, you are searing. After a minute or so, gently shake the skillet. If it doesn’t move leave it alone. If it moves a bit, gently turn it over. Tongs are best for this sort of thing.

Now, put the steak in the oven. Here’s where things get a little tricky. How long? That depends on a lot of factors. How thick is the meat? What shape? How do you like it? Give it a few minutes, and check. That is all I can tell you. Thicker steaks will take longer. If you skipped the take it out of the fridge step, it will take longer. The onus is on you to make your steak the way you like it. Remember that practice makes perfect, and the more often you do this the better you will be.

Done enough? Ok, take it out of the skillet, set in on a plate to rest, and cover it with a piece of foil. This is important. It won’t get cold. It’s now time for our pan sauce! I julienned about half an onion. Pour out most of the fat from the skillet, and put it back on the stove. Put the onions in and saute them until they are tender and starting to caramelize. You’ll notice that there was some brown stuff left by the steak(Its called fond), the onions will get some of that out of the pan. Then I poured a small amount of red wine in the skillet with the onions. Then stir making sure to sure that all of the brown bits come out of the pan. I let it reduce a bit, and added some chicken broth. Again, let it reduce. I did that just to mellow out the flavor of the wine. When I got it reduced I added maybe a teaspoon of soft butter to the sauce, and mixed it in. That is the sauce for my steak, and it tasted much better than any of the steak sauces you buy in the store.

Once the sauce was finished I simply spooned the sauce over the steak and enjoy!