Basmati Rice Pilaf with Currants and Almonds

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Here’s the promised basmati rice recipe to accompany the Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs. What makes this rice so special? Well, first it’s sauteed in a bit of butter, onion, garlic, and spices. And after being simmered until fluffy, you toss in some dried fruit (I chose currants) and golden toasted almonds. Not your ordinary rice. So much better. Pictured with roasted broccoli on the side.

Basmati Rice Pilaf with Currants and Almonds

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dried fruit, such as currants, raisins or finely chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted until golden

DIRECTIONS

1. Melt butter in a pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring regularly, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic to sautéed onions and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Add rice to pot, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add water, salt and pepper to rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 15-18 minutes. Off heat, remove lid, and sprinkle dried fruit over rice (do not mix in). Place lid loosely over pot and let stand 10 minutes. Toss in toasted almonds, fluff rice with a fork, then serve.

Serves 6.

(Adapted from Once Upon a Chef)

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Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs

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As I sit here and type this I’m wishing we were having these kebabs again for dinner tonight. They were so so good. Even with chicken breast which can be dry and boring. But no! So tender and juicy and flavorful. Chicken thighs would be amazing. I’ll be sharing the recipe for the basmati rice pilaf next but if you just can’t wait, it can be found right here (I only made slight modifications).

Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs

INGREDIENTS

1 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt (I used Fage 2%)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot)
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
2-1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs (or 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts- I used breasts), trimmed of any excess fat and cut into large bite-sized pieces

for skewers:
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
bell pepper, seeded and chopped
other veggies of choice

DIRECTIONS

1. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, olive oil, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic.

2. Thread the chicken onto metal skewers, folding if the pieces are long and thin, alternating occasionally with the red onions/peppers. Place the kebabs on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Spoon or brush the marinade all over the meat, coating well. Cover and refrigerate at least eight hours or overnight. (I marinated the chicken cubes in a bowl for about 6 hours and then threaded them on the skewers right before grilling.)

3. Preheat outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium-high heat. Grill the chicken kebabs until golden brown and cooked through, turning skewers occasionally. Transfer the skewers to a platter and serve.

Serves 6-8.

(Adapted from Once Upon a Chef)

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Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Pizza

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Are you familiar with Boursin? It’s a creamy cheese spread that comes in several different flavors (garlic & herbs/shallot & chive are the two I’ve tried). It’s one of our favorite snacks spread on crackers. Also awesome on sandwiches or in omelets. I saw this recipe on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe that uses Boursin to make a creamy artichoke + spinach topping for pizza. Um, yes!

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A few notes: I didn’t have chicken on hand and used Canadian bacon in its place. Delicious. Regular bacon would be fantastic as well. (Just don’t use quite as much since it’s so flavorful.) And measure your spinach after thawing and squeezing it dry. If you want to use fresh spinach, measure after cooking (chop and quick saute until wilted) and squeezing the moisture out.

p.s. Boursin can be expensive. The best deal I’ve found is at Trader Joes (they only carry the garlic and herb which is what you need for this pizza). And usually Costco sells it in a 3-pack for good price- it’s a lot of cheese but we have no trouble finishing it off!

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Pizza

INGREDIENTS

1 recipe pizza dough
1 1/2 cups shredded Asiago cheese (I used half mozzarella and half Asiago)
1 1/2 cups diced, cooked chicken (I used 1 cup diced Canadian bacon)
1 (5.2 oz.) package Garlic and Fine Herbs Boursin cheese*
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (measured after the thawing/squeezing)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Prepare pizza dough according to recipe directions.

2. While the dough is rising, in a medium bowl, combine the chicken, Boursin, onion, artichokes, spinach, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. Preheat oven and baking stone to 450 F. Spread the filling over the prepared crust and top with the shredded cheese. Bake 8-10 minutes until the crust is puffed and golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Slice and serve.

*I have no affiliation with Boursin and am not receiving compensation for this post- it’s just a product I love!

Makes 1 large pizza.

(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

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Apple Spiced Scones

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My sister made these spiced apple scones for our Christmas morning breakfast and I loved them. They’re on the healthy side (compared to other such scones) with half whole wheat flour, just enough butter, and light on the sugar. For Easter brunch I made them on my own and Clara and I devoured most of the batch. Be sure not to over-bake them so they don’t dry out. I like them best warm out of the oven, with a generous drizzle of cinnamon-sugar glaze.

Apple Spiced Scones

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup cold buttermilk
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. chilled butter (must be cold), cut into small pieces
2 cups peeled diced apples

for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
2 Tbsp. milk

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Combine the first five ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment, etc.

3. Combine the flours, baking powder, cinnamon nutmeg, and salt in another large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in chilled butter with a pastry blender, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Fold in diced minced apples.Add buttermilk mixture, stirring just until moist.

4. Place dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly four times with floured hands. Form dough into an 9-inch circle onto baking sheet, about 3/4″ thick. Using a knife, cut dough into 12 wedges all the way through.

5. Bake until golden, about 18 minutes. Place on a cooling rack about 10 minutes.

6. To make the glaze: Mix powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg with milk, adding slightly more milk if necessary to get the consistency to the right thickness. Stir until completely smooth.

7. Drizzle the glaze over the scones using a spoon – or- place the glaze in a shallow bowl and dip the top of the scones into the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 scones.

(Adapted from Skinnytaste)

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Slow-Cooker Maple Dijon Pot Roast

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Pot roast with Dijon mustard, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, even bacon if you choose. I served this one for our Easter dinner and we loved it. I didn’t bother with the bacon (mostly out of laziness) and it was wonderful. I can only imagine how crazy good it would be with bacon. You sear the beef and brown the onions in the morning and after 8 hours in the slow-cooker your dinner is ready. It just takes a few minutes to simmer and reduce the juices into gravy. Excellent over mashed potatoes with roasted carrots and a simple spinach salad (as pictured). Leftovers we had Chicago-style, piled high on a bun with giardiniera and sauce on the side for dipping.

Slow-Cooker Maple Dijon Pot Roast

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2- 3 lbs. beef chuck roast
4-5 slices bacon, diced (optional- I used 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 1/2- 2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fresh thyme, for garnish (or a few pinches dried thyme)

for serving: mashed potatoes, creamy grits, egg noodles, or roasted carrots, etc.

DIRECTIONS

1. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Set a large Dutch oven or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. If using bacon, add the bacon and cook until some fat starts rendering and it begins to turn golden. Push the bacon to the sides and add the beef. If using oil, heat the oil with the pan before adding the beef. Sear both sides of the beef until golden brown, about 10 minutes per side, and transfer all the meat to the bowl of the slow cooker.

3. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat (if necessary). Reduce heat to medium. Add the onions and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Pour in a few tablespoons of chicken stock and bring to a boil, scraping up any of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the onions and pan juices into the bowl of the slow cooker.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining chicken stock, Dijon, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, paprika, salt, and pepper until combined. Pour the liquid mixture over the roast. Close the lid and cook on LOW heat until the meat falls apart and is meltingly tender, about 8 hours.

5. Transfer the roast to a serving bowl or platter and cover with foil. Pour the cooking liquids into large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the gravy is reduced to desired thickness. (I used a little cornstarch + water to help the gravy thicken.) Cut the roast into chunks and pour hot gravy over the top.

Serves 6-8.

(Adapted from TheKitchn)

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