Chicken curry for beginners

I love thinking about how good different dishes will taste. I like cooking lots of food. But I’ve never eaten much curry and never cooked much either. Still, when I placed an order a few months ago from Penzey’s, I included a small jar of sweet curry. I have already gone through the jar of Foxpoint Seasoning, a blend of freeze-dried shallots, chives and scallions that is absolutely delicious on scrambled eggs and lots of other things. I also have been using the other blends I bought, but for some reason the jar of sweet curry was sitting unused in my cupboard. It smells yummy and I decided it was time to “get brave” and try it. I mean, really, this isn’t some arctic adventure I’m suggesting, just cooking something using a seasoning I’m not very familiar with. So I tried it tonight in a recipe I found in a Penzeys’ catalog called Started Chicken Curry. The note said “if you’ve ever wanted to try cooking with curry, but didn’t know where to start, this recipe is just what you’ve been waiting for”. It seemed pretty simple and I had all the ingredients already. Chicken, curry powder, onion, raisins (which I normally would NOT cook with), rice, chicken broth. So I cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and proceeded to follow the recipe. Mmmm. Wonderful fragrance drifting from the pan on the stove. Half an hour later, equally wonderful tasting dish for dinner. I served it with steamed brocolli, cauliflower, and carrots. I also added some Craisins in addition to the raisins. Dave said it was the perfectly level of sweetness. The two of us finished off most of the four person servings….. Well, that’s what happens when something works!

Here’s the recipe. I did serve it topped with a little shredded coconut, as suggested, and it was a good addition:


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 Cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 Cup margarine or butter (1/2 stick)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2-1 Cup raisins
2/3 Cup uncooked white rice
3 Cups chicken broth (or 3 Cups water mixed with 11/2 tsp. CHICKEN SOUP BASE)
1/2 Cup shredded coconut, optional

In a zip-top bag, combine the flour, curry powder, salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces and shake to evenly coat. Heat the margarine or butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, turning once, until they are browned well. Add the onion, raisins and rice and stir to blend. Pour in the chicken broth. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked.

(picture is from Penzey’s, but honestly, mine looked just about the same!)


Part 2: Me and the Minimalist cook Stir Fried Chicken with Ketchup!

Continuing on my personal, rather minor, challenge to try all of the recipes that Mark Bittman (The Minimalist!) listed in a recent article in the New York Times as his top 25 favorites, I scrolled down the recipes listed, looking for my next choice. The spaghetti with fried eggs I made a few days ago was well received, and I was eager for another new taste treat. Some of the recipes have ingredients that I am not sure where to buy locally or that I’m not really sure I want to try (such as the squid). However, that really is the reason to try this exercise. It’s easy to look through a cookbook and try recipes that have familiar ingredients. The harder part is making things you don’t think you’ll like. But if Mark Bittman is raving about a recipe, I think it’s time to give it a try.

Still, as I was looking over the list last night, I realized that I had all the ingredients needed to make Stir Fried Chicken with Ketchup. Calling for chicken, flour, salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic and ketchup, I bet that I always have the ingredients for this dish. It’s just that – well – it just sounds like of weird. But, as Mark Bittman commented “before you turn your nose up, think of hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, salsa and all the other condiments that somehow are often considered inferior in haute cuisine circles. Then think how good ketchup can taste.”

So, I cut up some chicken. I only had white meat, not dark, but proceeded anyhow and dusted it with the flour.

Then I got the rest of the ingredients ready.

Wow. That’s all the mess I can make? Seems pretty simple.

So, stir fry the chicken in part of the oil…

Remove it from the pan, and add the rest of the oil and garlic and peppers, cook a few minutes, then add the ketchup, and after cooking a few more minutes add the chicken back to the pan.

I steamed some pea pods and carrots to go with it. Looks good, doesn’t it? And – surprise? – it also tasted really good!

Here’s the recipe in case you want to also make “Manchurian” style chicken.


Time: 20 minutes

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, preferably dark meat, in 1/2- to 1-inch chunks

1/2 cup flour, more as needed

4 tablespoons neutral oil, like corn or canola

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons slivered garlic

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 cup ketchup.

1. Toss chicken with flour so that it is lightly dusted. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to high. When oil smokes, add chicken in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. When chicken browns on one side, toss it and cook until just about done: smaller pieces will take 5 minutes total, larger pieces about 10. Remove to a plate. Turn off heat and let pan cool for a moment.

3. Add remaining oil to pan and turn heat to medium high. Add garlic and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add ketchup and stir; cook until ketchup bubbles, then darkens slightly. Return chicken to pan and stir to coat with sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

Me and the Minimalist

I watched the movie Julie and Julia last year. Enjoyed it. Wished I had been the one to have thought up the idea and turned it into a money making book and movie, But, I didn’t really feel bad that I hadn’t mastered the art of French cooking, and didn’t really care if I ever did.

But, I was reading the New York Times yesterday, and found one of my favorite food writers bidding goodbye. Mark Bittman, the “Minimalist” has written a food column for many years. I enjoy reading his recipes, love watching the little video clips that sometimes accompany the recipes, and occasionally even try the recipes. Usually with great success.

So, when he added to his farewell column an article on his favorite 25 recipes, from the more than thousand recipes he’s used in his articles, it got my attention. Here’s what was even odder. Dave and I have a routine where at some point in the day I ask if he has any ideas of what he’d like for dinner. Hit and miss. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. But without me prompting yesterday, he said he’d like to try a recipe from Mark Bittman. Spaghetti with fried eggs. What? That didn’t sound at all right to me. But Dave saw it on a morning show with Matt Lauer that demonstrated this recipe.

So, I made Spaghetti with Fried Eggs.

It’s been a rather blah month. I love food and cooking normally, but just haven’t been getting excited about meals. So I was glad to have a suggestion for dinner, weird as it sounded. I’m still getting local eggs – dark colored yolks and HUGE in size. So it also seemed a good use for some eggs. I didn’t make a full recipe. While it said it would serve 2 to 3, I thought it definitely looked like enough for 3, so I cut it down some.

I steamed some asparagus to fill out the meal. Quick. Simple. Great tasting. I meant to get out my camera, but was too busy filling my plate. Plus, there really isn’t anything all that exciting looking about spaghetti and friend eggs. Just good tasting.

So, here is my “julie and julia” moment. Not nearly as ambitious, but I decided that in the next few months I am going to try EVERY recipe that Mark Bittman, the Minimalist, listed as his top 25 favorites. I’ll let you know if they work, and if they really are easy to put together. I am expecting a few disappointments, but mostly successes.

Biggest disappointment? That I can’t have you come and be my guests to try out the food!

Dream Enchildas, with thanks to Greg Atkinson

What it is that makes reading cookbooks so much fun? It really shouldn’t be, but I still find myself regularly hauling home a cookbook or two from the library, even though my home collection no doubt has thousands of recipes still to be discovered and loved.

This weekend I brought home a book called The Northwest Essential Cookbook by Greg Atkinson. Funny, but like many mystery novels that I check out from the library, I got this cookbook home, started reading it, and thought “hmm. I know I’ve checked this out before”. But, tastes and inclinations change and it seemed time to look through it again. In browsing, I noticed a recipe called Dream Enchiladas. I read it through, noting with pleasure that the author had worked years ago at a Mexican restaurant in Bellingham, Washington. Carrie went to graduate school there, and I always enjoyed visiting here there. It was fun to see her, and also fun to eat out as I liked many of the restaurants.

So, this cookbook author said that one of the great things about the restaurant he worked at in Bellingham was the bacon and orange enchilada sauce served with chicken, beef or cheese enchiladas. He borrowed the basic recipe to make an enchilada dish with crabmeat. Crab was not on my menu, but I did think it would be fun to turn the recipe back around to it’s origins and use it to make chicken enchiladas.

A bit of work (not much, really) and well worth it. I LOVED them. Dave gave them a thumbs up also. Not the usual tomato sauce soaked dish I am used to, but much more lively and bright. I’ll make these again.

Dream (Chicken) Enchiladas with Orange Bacon Sauce

12 corn tortillas
corn oil, for frying
Bacon and Orange Sauce(recipe follows)
8 ounces cream cheese
1 pound shredded chicken
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry the tortillas, one at a time, in hot oil for 30 to 40 seconds, turning once. As they are fried, stack them on paper towels and put aside.

Mix together 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce with the cream cheese and chicken. Divide the filling evenly among the dozen friend tortillas and roll each one into a cigar shape. Place one cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 12X9 baking dish and arrange the rolled enchiladas in a single layer on top of the sauce. Ladle the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, covering evenly. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and bake at 375 until bubbling (20 to 30 minutes) P
Bacon and Orange Sauce

4 ounce bacon, chopped
6 TBSP flour
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp ground chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup orange juice
1 TBSP grate orange zest
1 tsp crush garlic

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Lift out the bacon with slotted spoon, then stir in the flour and cook for a minute more. Stir in onion, chili powder, coriander, and pepper, and cook for 1 minute more. Whisk in the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, and garlic and continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. Continue stirring until the sauce comes to a boil, then remove from heat, and stir in cooked bacon bits.

Adapted from: The Northwest Essentials Cookbook by Greg Atkinson

An Anniversary Feast

So, I mentioned that we celebrated our 34th anniversary a few days ago.  I didn’t feel like going out to eat as nothing in Yakima seemed all the interesting at the moment, especially when the stores and produce stands are bursting with good food.  I ended up fixing some USA wild caught large prawns using a recipe I clipped some years ago from Sunset magazine called Garlic Lemon Shrimp.  It was so good I thought I should share.  The photo is from Sunset, not me, although I must say the ones I prepared looked really good also.  I just was too lazy to get out the camera.


Here’s the recipe.  I cut it in half so the two of us could be generous with serving size but not ridiculous:
Lemon Garlic Shrimp

Notes: A brief cure in salt and sugar not only adds flavor to the shrimp and makes them more tender but also acts as a mild preservative for transporting them. You can assemble the skewers through step 2 up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill.


Makes 6 to 8 servings


  • 2  tablespoons  kosher salt
  • 2  tablespoons  sugar
  • 2  to 2 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined shrimp (12 to 15 per lb.), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4  cup  olive oil
  • 1/4  cup  chopped parsley
  • 1  tablespoon  grated lemon peel
  • 2  or 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2  teaspoon  fresh-ground pepper
  • Lemon wedges


1. In a bowl, mix salt and sugar. Add shrimp and stir gently to coat. Cover and chill 45 minutes to 1 hour. Rinse shrimp well and drain; also rinse and dry bowl.

2. Return shrimp to bowl. Add olive oil, parsley, lemon peel, garlic, and pepper. Mix to coat. Thread shrimp on metal or soaked wooden skewers, running skewer through the body once near the tail and once near the head end of each shrimp so it looks like the letter C.

3. Lay shrimp skewers on an oiled barbecue grill over hot coals or high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Cook, turning once, until shrimp are bright pink and opaque but still moist-looking in center of thickest part (cut to test), 5 to 6 minutes total. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over shrimp.

A First Time Pasta Experience

Several months ago I clipped a recipe for Semolina Lasagna with Spicy Amatriciana out of my Cooking Light magazine.  It was not just a stand alone recipe, but included a lot of instructions for how to make home made pasta.  All these years of cooking and this is something I’ve never made.  I don’t know why, but I just have never tried it.  I was intrigued by the directions, and finally gave it a try this past weekend. While it looked like a long list of ingredients and instructions, I found that I already had all the necessary items. For some reason, I had bought semolina flour for a bread recipe I had tried awhile ago, and thought I should find some way to use it besides the bread, which must not have been a hit as I don’t recall ever making it again.

So I mixed up the flour(s), eggs, water and oil.  The recipe said to use a food processor, but since I don’t have one I mixed it up with my KitchenAid mixer, using the dough hook.   There didn’t seem to be enough dough though so I finally took it out and hand kneaded it for awhile.  While letting the dough sit for the 20 minutes called for in the recipe, I made the sauce.  It had a lot of sliced onions and tomatoes with a little bacon and garlic and olive oil.  It went together quickly and continued to simmer as I rolled out the individual lasagna sheets.

a rolled out piece of lasagna

a rolled out piece of lasagna

I found I really liked rolling out the dough.  It handled very well and was easy to roll out into a thin long rectangle.  Perhaps it also provided some kind of outlet for all the irritation and frustration I was feeling about the upcoming election and the economy (and countless other things, I am sure). Nothing like taking a rolling pin in hand and swinging it around the kitchen and transforming blobs of dough into pasta to provide a calming influence on my mood. Others might use yoga of meditation. I’ll settle for a rolling pin and flour any day.

After rolling out the six lasagna sheets, they were boiled for a few minutes each, then assembled. To me, this is an interesting recipe as the lasagna is made into individual servings, taking a long piece of the pasta, adding some sauce, then folding the pasta over, adding more sauce, over and over.

assembling the lasagna

assembling the lasagna

It’s not like other lasagna I’ve had, as it didn’t have very much cheese.  I supposed that’s why the recipe was in Cooking Light!   I didn’t have individual baking dishes so I used oven safe bowls and small casseroles.  It worked OK, but wasn’t as pretty as the picture in the magazine article.  Still, it looked fine and tasted very good.  Since I made six servings, I put part away in the refrigerator for later use (after assembling but before baking).  It tasted even better today when I heated it up.  All in all, a fun cooking experiment.  Even better, a big nudge to make more home made pasta and start experimenting. It sounds like the old refrain of “what took me so long to try this?”  I’ll be trying other kinds soon as we head into fall and cooler weather.  Suggestions welcome.

a single serving, ready to eat

a single serving, ready to eat

Spinach quiche (or real friends share recipes)

I shared a recipe the other night with Carrie.  She wanted to make a quiche, so I immediately thought about my sister Becky’s spinach quiche recipe and sent the recipe along to Carrie.  I’m wondering how it turned out for her.  I know she used Gouda cheese from the Farmer’s market but didn’t hear if it tasted good.  But it got me to thinking about shared recipes, and how interesting it is to ponder just where our recipes go when we “release them”.    Kind of a fun thought to think about tracing back the previous “owners” when you get a recipe from a friend, and how they now are all kind of your friends also.   So here is the recipe I shared with Carrie (with hopes that it’s OK with Becky that I shared it.)

Becky’s spinach quiche

1 baked quiche shell
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach
4 strips bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cups half and half
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 c. grated swiss cheese
1 teaspoon flour

Drain spinach, squeeze out excess moisture.  In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, half and half, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Mix in spinach and bacon.  Combine grated swiss cheese and flour and stir in.  Pour into quiche crust.  Bake at 325 (or 350) for 45 to 50 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Let set 10 minutes before serving.

My notes:  Prepare baked pie crust as directed on instructions.    Feel free to use all milk (total of 2 cups) rather than combination of milk and half and half.    Can use other kind of cheese if desired.  Also can substitute other vegetables –  or meats.    Will take longer to bake if using an 8″ pan.

Who would ever guess?

Yesterday, I was home for lunch, as usual. I wondered if we had much around for dinner, or whether I should stop at the store later for food. I discovered a rack of baby back ribs in the freezer, and decided they would be good – (and decadent) for dinner. So much for the low meat dining. But the rack was frozen. Hmm. So I unwrapped it, and put it in a 7″ by 11″ glass baking pan. I thought I could put it in a low temperature oven and over the course of the afternoon, it would thaw and slowly cook. But it seemed like it should have some seasoning, or barbeque type sauce. The cupboards and refrigerator were pretty bare, (although probably not to the extent of Old Mother Hubbard). I decided to squirt some catsup on the frozen ribs. But that didn’t seem quite enough. so…. Confession time: I love good grapefruit juice. I wish I worked for a juice company that made good grapefruit juice, but I really like living in the Pacific Northwest, so that probably wouldn’t be a good fit as they don’t grow grapefruits here. I had a container of Florida’s Natural “not from concentrate” grapefruit juice in the frig, so I added a large drenching of it to the pan. Then sprinkled on top some McCormick’s Grill Mates Montreal Steak seasoning. I covered the pan with aluminum foil, then put it in the oven at 300 degrees. Four hours later when I came back home, the house smelled wonderful. I made some coleslaw, cut up some watermelon, and enjoyed a pretty decent dinner. Now who would have thought that grapefruit juice and catsup could make such a good sauce for ribs?