Pearl Couscous w/ Chicken Thighs

Often, when we think of chicken meals, rice comes to mind as an accompaniment. Couscous can be used as a fluffy grain alternative to rice and, because the flavors of each are subtle, swapping them won’t throw your entire recipe off course. Both rice and couscous take on the flavors of the seasonings you add, and neither needs much to shine.

While rice is a grain and couscous are a type of pasta, you can buy whole-grain versions of both. Couscous’s flexibility has made it a favorite ingredient in kitchens worldwide. This tiny pasta can be used as a side dish, as a part of an entrée, or added to soups and salads to boost texture. Its mild flavor makes it ideal for combining with seasonings ranging from sweet to spicy, and it can be used to recreate dishes from any cuisine.

Couscous is a pale, delicate grain that North Africans have served for centuries with a meat or vegetable stew on top.

Although it is made from wheat, couscous is the North African equivalent of rice, and it could be called a second cousin of German spaetzle, although it does not contain egg and the granules are much smaller.

Steamed in a manner similar to rice, couscous takes about 10 minutes to prepare. Delicious when served hot, it is equally good at room temperature.

Today, I’m preparing a sheet pan meal with roast veggies and chicken thighs and serving them with a couscous accompaniment. Should be good!

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Pearl Couscous w/ Chicken Thighs
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Instructions
Vegetables
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a plastic bag place Italian dressing. Add carrots, onions, zucchini, mushrooms & garlic. Shake well to marinate (do them separately if you wish). Place on a foil lined baking sheet & roast until tender. Marinate cherry tomatoes in a bit of dressing & add to the pan for the last 10 minutes of baking.
Chicken Thighs
  1. In a small dish combine all chicken seasonings. In a plastic bag, place chicken & 2 Tbsp olive oil. Shake well to cover thighs with oil then add spice mixture & shake well again.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Add chicken thighs & roast in oven at the same time as veggies are cooking.
Couscous
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high until just shimmering. Add the pearl couscous & toss around to toast until golden brown.
  2. Boil water & add it to the toasted pearl couscous. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low. Cover & cook for about 14 minutes or until couscous is tender. Remove from heat.
Serving
  1. On a serving plate, place the couscous & vegetables. Top with chicken thighs & drizzle juice from roast chicken over all. Serve.

Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole

A glass of beer, a loaf of bread, a bowl of cereal, a standard of measurement, a form of currency, a medication – they all began with barley – an ancient grain, possibly even older than rice. Barley’s once exalted status has been redefined. No longer does it serve as a unit of monetary exchange or a unit of measurement. No physician thinks of prescribing it for an ailing patient. Now, barley is largely relegated to being a food or a key ingredient in the making of beer.

We owe much to the desert nomads and the camel caravans who endured sandstorms and unrelenting heat to trade their sacks of barley with distant neighbors, who then traded with other distant neighbors. Our steaming bowl of mushroom barley soup is a hand-me-down recipe with roots that take us back to prehistoric man. In 2005 barley ranked fourth for cereal production. There are many types of barley, many different uses for it and a long history of its importance to mankind.

Barley has a unique family-friendly quality. You can make a batch ahead on a Sunday, and it keeps well for at least three days in the fridge, and up to three months in the freezer. Monday, you can use it as breakfast and Tuesday, put a cup or two in your salad, and on Wednesday, you can add a barley casserole to your meal.

Four ways to cook barley. For each cup of barley, add 2 1/4 cups of water.

-Stove top: bring barley to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 50 minutes.

-Rice cooker: barley will cook in the same amount of time as brown rice — approximately one cycle in a rice cooker.

-Oven: place barley and liquid in a covered casserole dish and cook it in the oven.

-Slow cooker: cook barley in a slow cooker for 3 to 4 hours on low heat.

Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole is such a wholesome and comforting meal.

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Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole
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Instructions
Chicken Thighs
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the seasonings until well combined. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and place them in the baking dish.
  3. Rub both sides of the chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the chicken, rubbing it on both sides of the chicken thighs.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven, without moving or turning, until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken reaches at least 165° F. This will take about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken thighs. During the last 15 minutes, place the cherry tomatoes on baking tray & roast. Remove chicken thighs & tomatoes from oven. Slice thighs in 1/4-inch thick slices. Keep chicken & roasted tomatoes warm.
Barley
  1. In a saucepan, place the water & vegetable broth powder, stir to dissolve. Add barley & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer & cook barley until tender. Cooking time for pearl barley is around 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir the barley, cover the saucepan and let it stand for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Vegetables
  1. In a saucepan, sauté vegetables in 1 Tbsp oil until tender then season to taste. Combine with cooked barley.
Serving
  1. In a casserole serving dish, place the veg/barley mixture. Top with sliced chicken thighs & roasted tomatoes. Garnish with sliced green onion & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • If you find the barley & vegetables seem a bit dry add a bit more vegetable broth.

Fruity Roast Chicken w/ Couscous

I’m not sure how far back I came to really enjoy using fig balsamic dressing as a marinade for various roasted meats. This dressing marinade adds a bold, zesty flavor to almost anything. Bursting with fig juice, balsamic vinegar, and herbs and spices. So, it only makes good sense that I take the idea further and test the possibilities of using fig preserves with savory meals.

Most people think of fig jam or preserves as what you find in the middle of a fig newton…basically dried figs and sugar, but a good preserve is a combination of sweet figs with a nice balance of balsamic acidity and the mustard heat lends itself to a whole lot of dishes far beyond a simple cheese plate.  

The flavor of the preserves is more complex and less sweet than most fruit spreads, so it gives you enough of a contrast with salty items without tasting too sugary.

This is the very definition of a winning weeknight chicken dish: quick, sweet and savory, a little something different. The herbs enhance the savory quality of the dish and provide a touch of earthiness to balance the sweet. 

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Fruity Roast Chicken w/ Couscous
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Ingredients
Spicy Fruit Filling
Servings
Ingredients
Spicy Fruit Filling
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Instructions
Fruit Filling
  1. Combine apricots, raisins, apple & orange juice in a small bowl. Season with spices; mix well. Set aside to marinate.
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place chicken thighs in a heavy freezer bag. Gently pound until about 1/4-inch thick. On a sheet of plastic wrap lay out thighs to form a 'solid' piece. Sprinkle chopped fresh herbs over meat (if using). Mound the filling on flattened thighs then using the plastic wrap, roll up, tucking in the ends.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly spray center area. Transfer chicken roll to foil & top with fig preserves. Pull foil up around meat to form a catch 'basin' for meat & fruit juices (leave top open).
  4. Roast about 25 minutes until meat is cooked. When you remove it from the oven reserve fruit & meat juices to use over your couscous if you wish. While the meat is cooking, prepare the couscous.
Couscous
  1. Heat first amount of oil in a medium saucepan. Add next 4 ingredients. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened. Add honey. Heat & stir for about 30 seconds until green onion is coated.
  2. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & second amount of olive oil; simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Fluff with fork & stir in remaining 3 ingredients.
  3. Place couscous on a serving plate topped with sliced chicken thigh roll. Serve.

Lemon Chicken in Dill Cream Sauce

Dill is an herb I have always favored. Due to its tangy taste and fragrance this herb has two groups of fans: those who are enthusiastic about it and those who push the plate aside in disgust if there is even a sole leaf of dill in the meal.

The herb is native to southern Russia, western Africa and the Mediterranean region.

In the 1st century Rome, dill weed was considered a good luck symbol. Ancient Egyptians used it to ward off witches. To the Greeks, dill signified wealth. Many cultures cultivated it for medicinal qualities, particularly its ability to soothe an ailing stomach.

Dill is a unique plant in that both its leaves and seeds are used as a seasoning. The thin, feathery green leaves become the aromatic herb called dillweed, and the oval flat seeds the more pungent spice referred to as dill seed.

The flavor of dill weed resembles the licorice-like flavor of mild caraway or fennel. The plant is, in fact, often mistaken for fennel fronds.

The classic combo of fresh lemon and dill create a quick Greek-inspired pan sauce for these simple sautéed chicken thighs.

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Lemon Chicken in Dill Cream Sauce
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Season chicken with salt & pepper to taste along with oregano, basil & garlic powder. Combine butter & oil in a large skillet. Once butter is melted add honey & stir to combine.
  3. Add chicken to pan, brown chicken 2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a baking dish (it won't be cooked through at this point). Add butter & garlic; sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Add chicken broth, cream & lemon juice & whisk over medium heat to form a smooth sauce.
  4. Pour sauce over chicken in baking dish & bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven, sprinkle dill over the chicken & sauce. Add cracked pepper to taste & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • Being rice lovers, I cooked some long grain rice & used it as a base under our lemon chicken & dill sauce before baking it. Real tasty!

Persimmon Chicken Thighs

Persimmons are a wonderful fruit, typically available in Canada from October to January. Their exquisite, delicate texture & flavor is hard to describe. They have sometimes been compared to that of a peach or a mango.

Fuyus are about the size and shape of a medium tomato, somewhat squat. Their color ranges from deep reddish orange to a vivid golden orange hue with a flower-like top or stem.

Many people prefer to eat persimmons fresh but they are a wonderful addition to many recipes. At breakfast try adding them to smoothies, as a topping for yogurt or granola or as a filling for crepes. The sweet tenderness of persimmons also works well in salads and as a compliment to various meat dishes.

Today we are having persimmon with our chicken. I just can’t resist using them when they are available.

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Persimmon Chicken Thighs
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Instructions
  1. Season chicken thighs with salt & pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil & sear the chicken thighs for 3 minutes on each side. Remove thighs from pan & set aside.
  2. Add the rest of the coconut oil & the onions. Sauté the onions for 2 minutes; add ginger, garlic, persimmons, rosemary, thyme & a little more salt & pepper. Sauté for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken broth & bring to a simmer, stirring well, making sure to scrape any pieces off the bottom of pan. Add chicken thighs back to the persimmon mixture, cover & cook for another 12-15 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle.

Chicken, Squash & Pasta Soup

The season of squash and soup have arrived. As the days and nights get cooler, few dishes satisfy like a bowl of soup.

Roasting the chicken and squash before turning them into soup gives a deeper flavor that wouldn’t normally be there if you just simply simmered the ingredients together. You can go a number of ways with the preparation. If you have the time, roast a chicken (for a previous meal). That will give you both some chicken meat and broth needed for your soup. Second, you can roast some chicken thighs with the celery, onion, garlic and squash. Third, purchase a deli roasted chicken, roast the veggies and squash in the oven to caramelize them for flavor needed. In the case of the second and third options you will need to make some good, rich vegetable or chicken stock (from scratch or bouillon cubes). The pasta cooks in the soup to help bulk things out.

Whatever route you chose to go in making this soup, the results will be incredibly flavorful I’m sure. Imagine the aroma coming from your kitchen  — pure comfort food!


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Chicken, Squash & Pasta Soup

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Course Lunch, Main Dish

Servings

Course Lunch, Main Dish

Servings

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Instructions
Roast Chicken & Veggies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a foil lined sheet pan, arrange vegetable pieces & chicken thighs. Drizzle with olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake until chicken is cooked & veggies are tender-crisp. Remove from oven. Chop or shred chicken into soup size pieces.

Soup
  1. In a Dutch oven, Place chicken broth, seasonings & pasta. Heat to boiling, add pasta & cook until pasta is almost done. Add roasted chicken & veggies & continue cooking to finish cooking pasta. Serve.


Recipe Notes
  • If you care to make some chicken stock from 'scratch', this ingredient list might be helpful-- 
  • 1 chicken carcass with any bits of meat & skin left on it
  • 2 whole stalks of celery
  • 2 whole carrots
  • 1 onion, halved (skin on or off)
  • 1 head of garlic (left intact, skins on)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a dash of dried thyme, rosemary or any sprigs of herbs you care for

Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken

Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that serves as the official maker to end winter. It is during this long week-end that many summer businesses, such as parks, outdoor restaurants, bike rentals etc., will       re-open despite the fact that summer does not officially begin until a month later. Gardeners in Canada regard Victoria Day as the beginning of spring as it falls at a time when one can be fairly certain that frost will not return until autumn.

Although we are well into the 21st century, in Canada we still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday 117 years after her passing. She was born on May 24th which is why Canadians celebrate her birthday in late May.

Canadians jokingly refer to Victoria Day as May ‘two-four’ day. This is an inside joke which refers to a case of beer, containing 24 cans. For most Canadians, this is the first warm-ish  long week-end since Easter, so they head to campsites armed with a 24 case of beer. Although we hang on to the Victoria Day name for old times sake, somehow it seems we are really celebrating the beginning of the summer season.  May ‘two-four’ is probably the more accurate moniker.

In keeping with the spirit of a ‘seasonal barbecue’ on this holiday, Brion & I are doing some Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken Thighs. Have a great day!

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Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken
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Course Main Dish
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Instructions
  1. Preheat barbecue grill to 350 F. In a bowl, combine first 5 ingredients; add bacon slices & chicken thighs. Allow to marinate for about 15 minutes; drain. Reserve marinade.
  2. On a large sheet of foil, place the bacon to form 4 crosses, top each with a pineapple slice in the center. Next, lay a chicken thigh on pineapple slice, fold bacon ends over thighs. Carefully flip over so that the bacon ends are on the bottom.
  3. Lay foil on barbecue (with the wrapped chicken thighs on it). Close lid on cook until internal temperature reaches 165 F. and the juices run clear. If you prefer, use some of the excess marinade to baste meat as it cooks.