Spiced Roasted Chicken with Garbanzo Beans and Cherry Tomatoes with Yoghurt Sauce

Have you ever noticed how certain things can trigger different emotions? Maybe you have an outfit that makes you feel amazing so you can walk into a meeting with confidence and authority. Or perhaps you hear an old song on the radio and it brings back fond memories of your first school dance. For me, all my emotions revolve around food. If I’m happy, I eat, if I’m sad, I eat. Even if I’m happy for someone, I make something and go eat with them.  

I have a recipe that brings me utter joy, and a recipe everyone will thank me for. It is a recipe that will save you on a weekday when you don’t have time to cook. It is a recipe that you can cook and take to a potluck or bring to a friend. It is a recipe that the whole family will enjoy.  It is delicious, nutritious and has minimal preparation and cook time. I will not say much more about this recipe but will only relay my emotions about it:  I feel  love that I have found it, joy when eating it, and now happiness that I can pass it along.

Spiced Roasted Chicken with Garbanzo Beans and Cherry Tomatoes with Yoghurt Sauce



Inspired by a recipe from Epicurious

INGREDIENTS:
3-4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1-2 teaspoon ground cumin
cayenne powder to taste
½-1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
4 chicken breast halves with bones or 12 drumsticks (I like to use drumsticks because easier for kids to grab and eat)
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 12-ounce container cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh coriander, divided
Cous Cous, Rice, or Pita to serve with, if desired

PREPARATION:
1. Preheat oven to 450°. Put olive oil, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt in large bowl and mix. Place chicken inside bowl and mix so it is covered with the mixture. Take out spice covered chicken and place in  roasting tray.
2. Pour chickpeas in same large bowl chicken was in. Put ½ cup coriander in as well and mix around. There should still be a bit of spice inside the bowl to coat the chickpeas. Pour the chickpeas over the chicken in the roasting pan.
3. Put the tomatoes on the chicken and chickpeas in the roasting pan and put in oven at 450F for 30 minutes or until done.
4. While chicken is in oven, put yoghurt in a small bowl and add a ½ – 1 teaspoon of cumin, and cayenne and salt to taste. Add water to thin yogurt to desired consistency. Set aside.
5. If desired, make rice or cous cous or salad to serve with chicken.
6. Take chicken out of oven when done, and sprinkle with remaining coriander. Serve with rice or cous cous or pita and yogurt sauce.
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Baked Spinach, Feta, and Sundried Tomato Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Sometimes it’s hard having a different opinion than the rest of the group. This is especially true in the food world. For example, try telling a chocoholic you don’t like chocolate and they will start to question your character.  What do you mean you don’t like chocolate? What kind of person are you??

Usually food preference is pretty subjective but some foods are so widely loved that expressing dislike towards them causes anger. I have somehow provoked outrage when I told people I didn’t like jello, or doughnuts, or scones, or even coffee. Sometimes I really want to like something because everyone else does, but my stubborn taste buds just won’t do it. Such was the case with quinoa.

It was initially just a food trend, but over the past few years quinoa has slowly become a food staple, and for a few years I have been trying to make it palatable. After every unsuccessful quinoa dish, I plan to never eat it again, but then I am bombarded with people raving about its’ great health benefits, and I find myself trying to cook it again.

This time I vowed not to listen to anyone anymore. But some voices you cannot ignore, such as the voices of your close family and friends. Every time I post anything about quinoa on facebook, it always gets more likes, more comments and more recipe requests than any other dish. So I decided to try quinoa one more time. My solution was to make a dish with enough additional ingredients to mask the quinoa “look” and a dipping sauce to mask the quinoa flavor. This scenario worked well for me as I get a nutritious meal with minimal quinoa flavor and my quinoa-hungry Khana Mama fans get a recipe with their apparently favorite ingredient.

Now if only I can find a way to make my kids eat it…

Baked Spinach, Feta, and Sundried Tomato Quinoa cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce


Ingredients for Quinoa Cakes:
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooked as per package instructions
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned, rinsed chickpeas ok)
5 oz fresh baby spinach, sautéed and chopped with excess water squeezed out OR 1 cup frozen chopped spinach thawed with excess water squeezed out
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup feta cheese
1 small finely chopped onion
4 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
1-2 tsp cumin to taste
Cayenne to taste

PREPARATION for Quinoa Cakes:
1. Preheat oven to 200C. Spray nonstick spray on cooking sheet.
2. If using fresh spinach, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Drain in colandar and squeeze out excess water. When drained completely, chop.
OR
Defrost frozen chopped spinach and squeeze water out with paper towel.
3. Coarsely mash chickpeas in food processor. Add in sundried tomatoes, spinach, feta, garlic, onions, and coriander and mix in food processor until combined.
4. Combine egg, flour, tahini and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in COOKED quinoa and spices. Stir in remaining ingredients from food processor then mix (or mash) together until mixture is firm enough to shape in little patties.
5. Shape mixture into 1/4 cup patties and put on cookie sheet. Patties should not be too flat, and they will bake to the shape you leave them in.
6. Bake at 200C for 15 minutes then flip patties and bake another 10- 15 minutes or until brown and lightly crisp.
Serve with red pepper sauce.

INGREDIENTS For Roasted Pepper Sauce:

3-4 peeled roasted bell peppers NOTE: I like to use a combo of red, orange and yellow. (Peppers from a jar ok or you can roast them yourself: Just put them on baking sheet for 30-40 mins at 225C, remove from oven and cover with foil until cooled, then peel and throw away seeds)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1-2 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Cayenne, if desired

PREPARATION For Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
1. Puree all ingredients listed for sauce in a food processor.
If you have extra sauce, it is great on burgers, quesadillas, crackers, or really anything!

Arabic Lentil Soup and Baked Pita Chips

After reading my last post, everyone kept asking me about the magical Arabic lentil soup that was  nutritious, great tasting, easy to make, and kid approved. In addition to making the soup, I have found myself cooking several Arabic dishes lately, because so many of them have these wonderful qualities. Sometimes I go through phases of cooking one type of cuisine. Currently I am in my Arabic phase. I’m finding Arabic food is the perfect blend of the spices of the east and the flavors of the west.

My first cooking phase was Indian food. As much as I loved the amazing spicy flavors and healthy veggies I was cooking, I was annoyed at all the steps and subsequent work that went in to making just one dish. All the chopping and mincing was even more difficult with two toddlers running around. I tried some shortcuts such as freezing 1 tablespoon portions of garlic and ginger pastes in an ice tray, so I could just pop them into the dish I was making, or plan my meals ahead so I could soak, chop, and marinate in advance.  But for a tired  unorganized spontaneous mother of two boys, advance planning did not always happen. So I figured it was time to switch cuisines.

I then moved on to western food which was easier to prepare, but often lacked the bold flavors my palette was accustomed to. I generally like things on the spicier side, and often in western cuisine there just wasn’t enough…spice. Sometimes the only seasoning would be salt and pepper and maybe lemon zest. So I found myself constantly altering recipes by either tripling the garlic, grating in more ginger, or adding cayenne or cumin or even Sri Racha.

Then I discovered cooking Arabic food. Although I had been eating it for years, I never made any Arabic dishes at home. I soon found out it is often easy to prepare, easy to clean up as many dishes can be cooked in one pot, quite healthy, and very tasty as it has enough spices to add a lot of flavor but not a lot of heat to overwhelm the ingredients.

So here is my variation of Arabic lentil soup. I like it heavy on the garlic and spices and veggies, but you can personalize it to your own taste. My kids especially like eating the soup with a dollup of yogurt and sprinkle of zaatar on top, as well as baked pita bread (recipe also below) to dip inside. Feel free to make your own version and let me know how yours turns out!

Arabic Lentil Soup and Baked Pita Chips


INGREDIENTS:
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
Salt, to taste
1-3 teaspoon Arabic Spices, to taste.  (You can find these in the spices section of the supermarket labeled “Arabic Spices”or “Arabic Masala”. Or check at your local Middle Eastern grocer.)
1 Maggi Chicken or Vegetable stock cube  (You can leave this out but it really tastes better if you add it in!)
2 teaspoons Olive oil
1 cup masoor daal, soaked.  (Soak if possible, but not necessary. It does shorten the cooking time. See picture below for type of masoor daal to use.)

Masoor Daal

SOUP PREPARATION:
1. In a large pot fry onion in olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Add garlic and fry for a couple minutes. Add in carrot, bell pepper, daal, salt, and Arabic spices and saute for a few minutes.
2. Add in about 8 cups of water and bring to boil. Keep cooking until daal is cooked and vegetables are softened. Add more water as needed. Add in Maggi stock cube and make sure is dissolved.
3. After all is cooked, blend with stick blender until smooth. Check salt.

Serves 3-4 people. Serve with Baked Pita Chips (Recipe below) or bread sticks or sliced crusty baguette.
Baked Pita Chips

INGREDIENTS:
5 slices Arabic bread
1 teaspoon Oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt, to taste
Olive oil

PREPARATION:
1. Cut bread into slices and arrange on baking sheet.
2. Brush with olive oil.
3. Sprinkle with oregano, garlic powder, and salt.
4. Bake in oven at 190C for 5 minutes or until crispy. Watch the oven as the pita crisps  and browns pretty quickly.

Vegetable Fried Rice

I could write a novel about the many times my kids have refused to eat what I have cooked. At first I thought their resistance was because the food I was making wasn’t appetizing. (Broccolini and quinoa salad, anyone?). But after careful observation, I have deduced the only reason they won’t eat my food is because they know I am the one making it and they just want to drive me crazy!

This realization became evident during dinner, which was chicken curry and fresh chapattis. Although my kids normally like this meal, this time they did not touch it. Luckily I had also made some vegetable fried rice (or “wice” as my young one calls it). Unfortunately, the wice was denied as well. I was starting to panic as hungry boys become crazy rowdy destructive boys in about 2 seconds, and I had no desire to clean or make anything else. At that moment my phone rang. It was my dear friend calling to say she had made lentil soup and was sending it over for dinner. I knew my kids hate soup but I was desperate.

As the soup arrived I quietly put it in their bowls and waited for their screams of protest. I kept waiting but all I could hear was the sound of soup being slurped down so fast I was afraid they weren’t breathing.
 
Then my older son finally spoke: “Mommy….?” he asked.

Hmmph. Finally a complaint, I thought. But he then said, “Mommy can I have this as my snack at school tomorrow?”

I think to myself:  Ok, let me get this straight. You don’t even like soup and now you want it at school too?? I am fuming.

Then he speaks again:  “Mommy can I have some more? This is soooo good!”

I am still in shock as I am refilling their bowls and giving them some more crusty bread to dip inside. Just then I hear my son singing an impromptu song: “Soup, soup, soup, soup…I love soup!”

My ego was bruised and I was pondering where I went wrong in my cooking. But instead of being upset I was happy they had eaten a nutritious meal and actually liked something. My thoughts were interrupted by my two year old who was trying to tell me something. He kept puckering his mouth in an ‘’o’’ position and I thought he was trying to give me a kiss. I was so touched at his sweetness. But then out came the sounds: “sh…shou…shouu…….shouuup!”

I promise I will post the recipe for my friend’s lentil soup soon, as it was delicious and clearly the dinner champion of the evening. But for now you must settle for the runner up, my vegetable fried rice.  It is all my fragile ego can handle.

Vegetable Fried Rice



INGREDIENTS:
Medium pot of cooked rice.  Day old, leftover rice is best.
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic,  finely chopped
1 bunch chopped scallions (both white and green parts)
1 large tomato, chopped and deseeded
Salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2-3 large eggs
1 small bunch chopped coriander,
Lime and cucumber slices for garnish

Note: Can also add any meat of your choice, tofu, or additional veggies such as broccoli or peas

PREPARATION:
1. Heat the oil on high. Add the onion. Stir well and when it’s softened lower heat slightly and add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
2. Add the rice and stir well. Add the tomatoes and mix. (If you are adding any other blanched or steamed veggies add them now)
3. Push the rice to the side of the pan and add a bit more oil. Crack the eggs into the oil and cook. Mix with rice.
4. Add the soy sauce and salt and pepper. Season to taste. Remove from heat.
5. Add most of the scallions and a little cilantro into the rice and mix.  Garnish with the rest of the scallions and coriander, lime, and cucumber slices.

Note: If you are adding meat, cube it and cook it first. Then add into rice at step 4.