Chicken Breast Stuffed With Feta & Asparagus on Coconut Rice

The other day there was a fantastic special at the grocery store on marinated chicken breasts stuffed with feta and asparagus. It was a dish fresh from the butcher section and I thought it would make a lovely treat for the family. As a bonus, although this type of meal has a reasonably long cooking time, it’s not cooking that has to be supervised all that much, so it’s good for busy school nights.

I served the chicken on a bed of coconut rice made in the Instant Pot, using the ridiculously easy technique of substituting the water required 1:1 for light coconut milk. This kind of rice is currently the favourite of Thing 1, and it’s a regular request that I find I can easily acquiesce. The whole meal was ready in about 45 minutes, start to finish. I think it’s one that I’d like to make again, even if I do have to take the time to marinade and stuff the chicken breasts myself. I’m thinking that it might be nice to prepare them in bulk and then freeze them for easy meal prep on busier days. I don’t know if the texture of the veggies would suffer, though, so I think I’d have to give it a test run first.

Finger Foods

Yesterday Mother Nature decided to prove, once again, that she reigns supreme by throwing a rare (but not unheard-of) snowstorm at us a good week into April. I feel very lucky that I hadn’t had the snow tires taken off of my car yet — unlike my poor parents. I was so happy the other day when I realized that I could see grass peeking through the snow in the back yard, making progress even from last week when I broke out the barbecue. As of halfway through yesterday afternoon, the view out my back door looked like this:

It did continue snowing throughout the rest of the day, although it was only lightly and hence didn’t accumulate all that much. I feel so much worse for my friends and family in Atlantic Canada who are supposed to get double the snowfall that we did! There’s a reason that we don’t plant our gardens here before the Victoria Day weekend at the end of may, and it isn’t just fear of frost.

In addition to the depressing weather, I still am suffering from a nasty cold, so yesterday’s supper had to be warm, filling, and easy. I thought that some tasty finger foods were in order. Much to my surprise, there was a great deal at one of the nearby grocery stores on zucchini this week, which doesn’t usually happen quite this early. I am left to surmise that places further south that have actually progressed through spring are having a bumper crop this year. So I decided to make some baked Panko zucchini sticks, which the kids love but haven’t had since the end of last summer. I thawed some Costco chicken wings and threw them in the oven, and while the were baking I threw together the zucchini sticks. Since the two dishes are cooked at the same temperature, for the last 15 minutes or so of cooking time I transferred the chicken to the top rack and cooked the zucchini on the bottom. This way both dishes were done at exactly the same time and could be served right away.

I think I’m about done with winter, by the way. It’s only two weeks until Easter; will Santa have to ferry the Easter Bunny to us in his sleigh?

Tandoori Chicken & Rice

The other day my kids had what I thought was a gastro bug, but in retrospect may have been a mild case of food poisoning, mostly because I haven’t caught anything. Generally, if the kids catch something, so do I, since I’m the one who will have to nurse them back to health. If it was food poisoning, it can’t be because of anything I had cooked, because I ate all of the same foods as them that day and was perfectly fine. However, we did grab some cheap takeout that night for dinner, and I had a different dish than the one they shared. That was probably the culprit.

So food was a low priority for a couple of days. Instead of writing about that experience in any kind of detail (because nobody really wants that), I’ll tell you about a meal that I made a few days previous.

I went through my fridge and realized that I still had a half a jar of Pataks Tandoori Curry Paste, so I just had to make up some tandoori chicken. It’s one of my husband’s favourite dishes; in fact, he’s the one who introduced me to it. Apparently Pataks brand is very popular in the Netherlands, where he did a work placement for half a year during university. He was very happy to discover that a few places here in Ottawa carried it when he returned, although a dozen years on it’s become much more common.

This particular recipe calls for marinating in a sauce of yoghurt mixed with the tandoori paste. I’ve really appreciated that a number of brands of yoghurt have started to make a lactose-free variety so that I can enjoy dishes like this! Other than the chicken, which was simply baked in the oven after being marinaded overnight, I just had to cook up some rice and dinner was done. I probably should have included a veggie or two, but somehow I forgot until right as dinner was to be served. Ah, well. So long as we’re all getting enough fruits and vegetables overall, it doesn’t matter too much that we’ve missed it at one meal.

Instant Pot Greek Pork Loin Roast

I picked up a PC World of Flavours Greek Seasoned Pork Loin Roast on spec for half price at the grocery store a while back, and I chucked it in the freezer until such time as I could use it. This week I was searching for something different to try for dinner, and it kind of popped out at me. The rest of the family hadn’t been too keen when I brought it home, but I figured it was at least worth a try!

I thawed it out and then cooked it in the Instant Pot instead of the more traditional oven, just to see how it would turn out. First I preheated the pot on Sauté with a bit of olive oil, then browned the sides of the roast to add a little flavour. Then I added a half a cup of beef broth and, using this chart as a reference for cooking time, pressure-cooked it on normal for 35 minutes. This means that it took about the same amount of time as cooking it in the oven.

I have to say that the final product was much more moist than any pork loin I’ve ever cooked in the oven, but I’m not entirely sure how much of that was due to the marinade and how much was due to the cooking method. The flavour was really nice, though.

I served the roast with sliced cucumbers and leftover rice reheated on the stove with a bit of chicken broth and salt. I find that this is a great way to use up refrigerated rice because it re-hydrates the grains and gives them a nice flavour. It’s also a great way to cover up that I’ve often got a bunch of different kinds of rice I’m mixing together (the tail-ends of a few meals). I really hate wasting food and I find that rice is one of the most common leftovers in our house. I also often make leftover stir-fry, which helps use up other bits and bobs in the fridge as well.

St. James Restaurante Juan Bravo

I am very happy to be able to say that I just spent ten days in Madrid, Spain! I prefer to write about trips after the fact because it’s generally not a good idea to announce to the world that your house is empty while you’re out of town. But I returned last night, jet-lagged as all get out, and now it’s time to write all about it.

Due to the jet lag I think I’m going to keep this one fairly short and sweet, and I’ll tell you a bit about the fancy group dinner that we had at Saint James Restaurante Juan Bravo. I believe that our hosts wanted us to get a chance to try some good, traditional Spanish food, which is the specialty of this restaurant. Most of us had paella, which is a slow-cooked, savoury rice dish with many variations. Above is Valencian paella, which includes chicken, rabbit, vegetables and snails.

These Norway lobsters (which are much smaller and more delicate than the American lobsters I’m familiar with from our East Coast) and prawns came on the side of a paella that also included chicken, vegetables, mussels and squid.

The crowning glory, at least for me, was the paella with Galician lobster, which is what my husband and I had. This serving was for at least four people (all of the paellas had to be ordered in portion sizes for two people or more), but I could have eaten all of that delicious lobster all by myself. The rice was also amazing, but it paled in comparison to the seafood. It was obvious to me that all of the dishes were prepared with care and pride, and the depth of flavour is where this showed the most.

This was the one and only time I tried paella in Spain, but it was absolutely delicious, so I hope that it was a good representation of the dish. It definitely makes me want to learn how to make it myself, especially since Spanish restaurants are few and far between around here. I think I’d have to keep the ingredients for homemade versions a little more simple, though; eating like kings while on vacation is definitely different than what we can afford to have every day at home. Maybe I should just keep an eye out for a sale on lobster…

Thing 1’s Stir-Fried Ginger Chicken

Thing 1 is learning how to cook, by which I don’t mean just helping me in the kitchen, but actually planning and preparing entire meals. She’s been able to successfully manage pre-packaged food for a while now, so she wanted to step up her game. I gave her free run of my cookbooks last week, but I suggested that for now she stick with some of the ones meant for beginners that I’d picked up over the years. She really likes Essential Cooking Basics: The New Cook by Mary Berry & Marlena Spieler (1997), I think at least in part because it’s full of detailed step-by-step photos, but isn’t only targeted at children. She prepared this dish almost entirely by herself, although I remained nearby to field (many, many) questions and to introduce her to some new techniques.

She chose to make Stir-Fried Ginger Chicken (page 88), which is the kind of meal that takes a lot more time to peel and chop than to actually cook. She was only just starting to prepare when she cut open a sweet pepper to find another tiny pepper growing inside! I’d read about this phenomenon before, but hadn’t chanced upon it myself; it’s called parthenocarpy, which is a kind of internal proliferation of a fruit without fertilization. Basically, it’s a tiny natural clone of the larger pepper — and it’s perfectly edible.


Yes, I know the knife in the background shouldn’t have been left blade-up; Thing 1 put it in the dishwasher moments after this photo was taken.

Knife skills are, I think, one of the most essential parts of learning to cook efficiently. I’m no speed demon myself, but I’m reasonably quick I manage not to cut myself most of the time. I find that even a lot of adults are awkward and slow with a knife in the kitchen, so I hope that starting Thing 1 early acquiring this skill will mean it’s easier for her as she grows up.

Another part of learning how to cook is learning how to adapt a recipe to what you have. I, for example, don’t have a good wok any more, so the dish had to be cooked in a large non-stick frying pan, which meant that the instructions had to change a little bit. Also, I couldn’t find the specific kind of noodle that the recipe called for, so a few adaptations had to be made for that.

Thing 1’s final dish was perfectly prepared: the veggies were still a little crunchy, the chicken was moist, and the noodles were al dente. Everyone went back for seconds, and there was still enough for Thing 1 to take as leftovers for lunch the next day — and show off to her friends.

Breaded Chicken Thighs with Baby Potatoes & Miso Greens

I’ve been trying to cut down on food waste in my house, and one of the things that goes to waste a lot of the time is the heels and mis-cuts of my homemade bread. You’d think it would get eaten up since it’s fresh and honestly tastes the same as the rest of the loaf, but the kids especially tend to leave it to go stale or even moldy. What I’ve started to do is take the stale ends and whizz it through the food processor to make bread crumbs, which was suggested by Jamie Oliver in this video. (I know it’s an ad, but it had some good tips!) This go around the crumbs were mostly from a loaf of rosemary Bread Machine Fluffy Herb Bread, which is a great herb to combine with chicken.

To add a bit more flavour, I broke out the Ikea FALKSALT sampler that my husband got for Christmas. I can’t seem to find a listing for it online, but it comes with four blends of sea salt: natural, wild garlic, oak smoked, and wild garlic. I chose the oak smoked for this dish, so I ground up a bit and added it to the bread crumbs. I dipped the chicken thighs in flour, then beaten eggs, and then bread crumbs. Then I baked it all for about half an hour, until the meat was cooked all the way through but still juicy.

To finish the meal, I also boiled up some baby potatoes that I bought over a month ago and had forgotten about in the fridge, and the leftover miso greens from the night before. Truly, this meal was all about avoiding food waste — but it was also delicious! Simple, too.